In the Réserve, human beings are only guests among the other inhabitants.
Here, it is the European bison, deer, wild boar, elk, and Przewalski’s horses that welcome you to a wild territory of 700 hectares.
Natural phenomena and beauty will unfold before your eyes to awaken the curiosity of travellers. The Monts d’Azur Reserve is a veritable mosaic of surprising environments: rocky cliffs, wetlands, natural meadows, remarkable woods, and more…
Under the benevolent gaze of Veterinarian Patrice Longour and his wife Alena, visitors are able to engage in eco-responsible tourism, respectful of fauna and flora.
This is a new form of travel highlighting a change of era, behaviour, and a commitment towards.
The Season Change
A year in the life of the Réserve des Monts d’Azur
Spring : The birthing season
With the changes in temperature, the snows melt and the wild animals find once again favourable conditions. The warmth of March and the advent of the first rains favour the return of the vegetation. The animals can access new food resources. The females are now able to produce a high-quality milk, necessary to the growth of the babies. The conditions set for births.
March: The wild boars are the first to wander the reserve
The sows give birth in the beginning of March. Their gestation lasts 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days, for a total of 115 days.
The female gives birth to two or three babies, but sometimes 4 or 5. After a week, the babies are able to follow along with their mother in search for food and continue to do so until the age of one or two. From the beginning of March, it is common to see the boar families in the fields, eating the leftover scarps of the domestic horses.
May: The first fawns hide in the forests.
Beginning of April, the doe look for a secure spot in the dense vegetation. It will be the perfect refuge for the fawn once the mother leaves it.
At the reserve, the birthing season start at the end of April and finish in June. After 8 months of gestation, the doe gives birth to a fawn. Around the same time the female deer separate from one year old fawn and search for an adequate spot for their new babies. They can give birth to one or two babies.
After the first week, the fawns spent most of the time hiding from predators in the high grass or among the shrubs. The mothers often return to their young to feed and clean them.
June: the bison calves galloping
In the month of June, the bison calves gallop across the plains. The herd of female Bison stay together even during the birthing season. After 9 months of gestation, the females ready to give birth leave the herd to reach higher ground. They seek a dense “forest” of boxwood. Two or three days later, the females give birth to one baby, between 12–15 kg. The mothers and babies rejoin the herd as soon as the calves are able to and form a “nursery”.
Summer: an easy and tranquil life
The spring rain and the oncoming heat favours the growth of the flora. The hardship of the previous months seems far away. In a few weeks, the grass burnt by the snow is now rich in colour and vigour of great diversity. Flowers overrun the green plains, also attracting many insects to the joy of the birds and animals. Even the foxes are on the lookout for grasshoppers and crickets. A hop, a snap of teeth and done !
June : The mothers produce the milk
The herbivores enjoy the perks of summer to fatten up. During the hot hours, they hide into the forest, or play in the plains where food is plenty. The pastures are neither cultivated nor mowed. The bison, horses and stags complete the agricultural process and stimulate the biodiversity favouring the creation of pastures and high-altitude lawns where we can find over 40,000 vegetables species.
That spectacular evolution of the flora is not limited to green spaces. It can be found in the forest areas where the bison graze. In a Mediterranean forest of Scots Pine, we can find woods recalling those found in the heights of the nearby Mercantour (1600km).
July: the wild herbivores transform the landscape
The bison graze everywhere. Using their strength, they open up the forest clearings so that the wild horses and the stags can shape the bushes while grazing on their leaves.
The boars finish the job by plowing the forest undergrowth. They hasten the ventilation of the soil and the germination of the inactive seeds and plants.
The newly made room is taken over by smaller animals, like the chamois, the deer, and the hare. From June, during guided visits, it is not rare to meet deer or stags vying for the visitor’s attention to distract them from their young, hiding in the vegetation. Our guides have instructions to play along and follow the mother even to get “turned around.”
August: the secret seduction of the Bison
As summer progresses, the intense heat lessens. The first storms energise the flatlands and the fields. The female bison start to become agitated. The mating season is almost upon us. From the middle of August, the mature females are now in heat. The males catch up to them and offer their service as true gentlemen.
The male bison immediately notices the changes in the female. He then needs to evaluate the hormonal behaviour of his “darling”. For that, he has an infallible organ right behind his palate, the organ of Jacobson. This is why he regularly smells the genital region of the female, like a wine expert, he breathes in through the mouth the hormones generated by the female.
If it’s time for the fecundation, the male will dedicate all his time to the female, following her around even for days, until she gives in to his advance.
Fall: The Stags’ Seduction
The Warriors are not ready for their romantic jousting. It begins at the beginning of September after the storms of late August. During this time, the herds of stags wander the reserve pretending to ignore the preparations of their future mate. With fall advancing, and the strong heat dissipating, the bellow of the male stag sounds out in the night, even for the neighbours in the lodges. The female stags begin their ballet going from place to place choosing their mate.
September: The pre-bellow
At the end of summer, the stags leave the forest. The most vigorous, generally loners, mark the young trees by rubbing against them vehemently. The young males, intrigued by the carrousel of their elders, regroup in herds. They have fun simulating jousting. During this time, the does continue to wander the reserve until the first bellow at the males are heard, in the beginning of September. Held by the mountain, the stags put the entire fauna on edge. Deer, wild horses, and boars stay away prudently. Only the bison seem to agree with this agitation and it even inspires their young. It is not rare to observe at this time animals between the ages of 2 to 3 years old copy their elders.
October: the madness of love
The romantic ballets continue until the month of October, the doe wander in the fields from bellow to bellow. This polyandrous practice ensures the genetic variability of their descendants. Sometimes a distracted male or curious female gets too close to a doe being courted by a deer. Immediately the animal will charge and this could lead to a precarious situation. If an animal is wounded on the abdomen, it can lead to death. Stag battles are spectacular but often deadly. The adversaries first fight one another with their voice, then antler against antler. They push each other one at a time until the weakest loses. A female is not worth dying for, even more so since the doe doesn’t hesitate to trick the winners with the losers.
Winter: the time of survival
From mid-November, the famished Fauna seeks to gain the Underwood where some vegetation has not been eaten during the summer months. The fauna eats by scraping the dry grass, seeking persisting green areas, or by gathering the fruits of the wild roses and hawthorne. Today when the winters are rough and because the fauna is unable to migrate, we must feed the wild fauna if we do not want to see it disappear permanently.
November : the herbivores scrape
From November, the gentleness of fall gives place to alpine freshness. While the days are still agreeable and pleasant, at night temperatures often fall below zero. In December, we can even find nocturnal temperatures of -10 °. There still are some beautiful sunny days a reminder of the nearby coast. But the grass and the plants, which are a source of food for the herbivores, disappear from the plains. From mid-November, the animals are famished and seek the undergrowth of the forest where they know to find food. The fauna eats by scraping the dry grass, seeking green areas, or by gathering the fruits of the wild roses and hawthorne. Before the great famine of January and February, anything goes.
December: Avoiding starvation
Some years, the snow is so thick that animals cannot even look for food. They have to resign themselves to aerial resources: lichens, pine needles, some left over leaves, and especially bark. Those are not very consistent sources of food and it’s hard for the animals to be fully satiated. Only the boars refuse to eat and end up paying for it. In 2009 over ¾ of the wild boars died in the region.
January: looking for water
At the heart of winter seeking water becomes the priority. A thick layer of ice covers the ponds and the streams. The animals have to break it to access food resources, that have become very rare. In the past, before humans tempered with nature, the animals would migrate to zones of refuge. Today when the winters are rough, we must give food to the wild fauna if we do not want to condemn it definitely. This is what eastern countries do presently and what we are practising in the Reserve when the snow reaches 50 cm.
The nourishment of the Przewalski horse
The horse of Przewalski seems better adapted to these difficult conditions. Without tiring, it wanders the reserves snacking little by little anything it finds in its way. Its relatively small size and its fat storage spreads out through all his muscles, allow it to withstand frugal rations. In March, it has barely lost weight contrarily to the other species.
The Nourishment of the Cervid
The herds of Cervids, male female and young mixed, often accompany herds of bison. By breaking the leaves, the bushes, and the ice, the bison offer the deer access to unhoped for resources. We can see this as a corporation between species.
The Nourishment of the Bison
During the winter, the bison struggles to feed its big quintal carcass. Because of that it is very careful not to tire itself out and by extension diminish the reserves of fat accumulated during the summer. This is vital for its survival. The animal reduces its movements and its coming and goings. The herd regroups and the animals huddle to keep warm. That way they can better overcome the extreme temperatures of February that can reach -20 °.
When winter ends in the Reserve
When winter ends most of the animals have lost weight. They have used up their fat storage. This weight loss is necessary to trigger the period of reproduction at the right time. Many gentle winters lead to births taking place in the fall. This has grave consequences for the young born too late as they will not be able to resist the cold of winter. Winter is a key season for the survival of the adults. It eliminates the weak and sick, but also sometimes healthy animals. Beware of weather extremes: a rough winter can decimate a generation of birth-givers, a gentle winter will put in danger the generation to come. In the end, life is a fragile balance.
Activities of all
The Reserve des Monts d’Azur offers many activities for the whole family: safaris on foot or by horse-drawn carriages in the summer, snowshoeing or sledding in winter, photo lookouts, natural swimming pools, climbing wall, workshops and playgrounds for the children.
And more recently the outdoor museum which retraces the history of the human wild animal alliance for the last 30,000 years.
Your Nature vacation begins with a safari which differs depending on the seasons but always led by an experienced naturalist.
Come and observe wildlife in its natural environment, just an hour from Nice or Cannes.
But the Réserve is not just a place for wildlife tourism. It is also a wildlife research centre. Each year, it welcomes students and teacher-researchers studying the dynamics of natural environments and the behaviour of European herbivores gathered for the first time in 15,000 years.
La Réserve offers accommodation that allows travellers to share an unforgettable experience. In the summer or fall, you can spend the night surrounded by nature in the ecolodges and experience moments of conviviality and sharing around a barbecue with our guides.
All year, enjoy the charm of the Petit Manoir’s rooms or the natural comfort of the rooms in the bioclimatic villa.
Make wild animals your new neighbours !