The Mont Blanc massif region is well known for its stunning landscapes and scenery. However, there is a rich diversity of flora and fauna that thrive in the area that will capture your hearts and your camera shots.
Much of the fauna in the region are distributed based off of levels of altitude. The animals have adapted to the type of terrain and vegetation available. Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule such as the fox. The fox can be found hopping through the lush valleys or in high-altitude meadows.
When hiking through the subalpine levels, you will be able to witness the chamois, deer, and ibex. These large herbivores can frequently be seen munching on grasses, flowers, and moss or balancing on rocky ledges that seem barely wide enough to support them. The male ibex is easy to spot with its massive horns and brown face; it is easy to confuse them with the chamois, a species of goat antelope. This species has much smaller horns, is typically smaller in body size, and features a distinctive white line that runs down the centre of their face.
In the area between the high forests and alpine meadows, you will see pheasants. If you happen to trek through during the spring, then you will likely witness the male pheasants fighting for the right to mate with the females.
In the meadows, you will see the occasional chamois or ibex wander through. While trekking here, you will almost certainly find the golden eagle. The golden eagle is common over most of the northern hemisphere and is characterised by its light gold feathers. It can often be confused by hikers as the bearded vulture; it is very rare to see this bird, as it was nearly hunted to extinction. As a protected species, bearded vultures have risen in numbers to about 100 breeding pairs in all of Europe. You can spot them via their tremendous wingspan of 2.8m (a golden eagle reaches about 2.3m).
The marmot makes a delicious snack for these large birds of prey, but it knows how to stay out of trouble. These giant rodents are a member of the squirrel family and are known for their defensive manoeuvres. They will “stand” and call out to others in the family if they sense danger. When a marmot emits a loud warning squeak, you will see all nearby marmots dart towards their network of underground tunnels.
Depending on the season, you may also be able to see the mountain hare or the stoat poking in and out of the scrubs. You could also see the rock ptarmigan, the alpine chough, or the great red woodpecker flitting around the trees.
As you trek through the Mont Blanc massif, you will see a variety of flora as well. Each type of flora is restricted to a specific altitude, similar to the animals. You will see the most vegetation in the subalpine levels which are dominated by conifer forests. Here you will find pine, spruce, and larch trees; the cones and needle-like foliage of these trees give them a distinctive look. Within the forests, you may be able to spot the rare slipper orchid or the delicate martagon lily.
As you trek upwards, the trees will thin and change to shrubs such as myrtles and rhododendrons. The bright blue petals of the Gentiana acaulis and Gentiana clusii can also be spotted. It is here that you can find the famous Edelweiss, a white flower made famous by the Edelweiss song sung by Captain Von Trapp in the Sound of Music.
Two flowers hold the record for living at the highest altitude in the Mont Blanc region: the Ranunculus glacialis, a small white flower with a yellow centre, and the saxifrage with two flowers.
All three countries that make up the Mont Blanc Trail put substantial effort and resources into preserving and cultivating the flora and fauna of the region. They want the stunning natural beauty of the Mont Blanc Trail to be enjoyed by all, for many years to come.