THE ELK THE LARGEST OF THE CERVID

Of all the cervid, the elk is the largest and most imposing. Males can measure more than two metres at the withers for a weight exceeding 600 kg. That’s more than a thoroughbred horse! As for the wood of the antlers, it is a real forest weighing up to 20 kilos.

 

Today, the elk still lives in the wild in Scandinavia, the Baltic states, and northern Russia. But its range was originally much larger than that. It circulated in a good part of Europe and France with no exception. Agricultural expansion and hunting have over the years pushed it north where it has found its last refuge. The last French moose would have been killed in the Bay of the Seine and in Alsace around the 11th century.

THE FALLOW DEER AN AMAZING CERVID

The real name of the European fallow deer is Dama dama. He looks just like Disney’s Bambi, but that one is a white-tailed fawn from Virginia. The fallow deer is much smaller than a Red Deer. The male measures almost one metre at the withers and weighs 60 kilos; 90 kilos if wet.  The female measures 80 centimetres, weighting between 30 and 50 kilos. Its small size doesn’t prevent the male from displaying magnificent flat and webbed antlers like those of the elk. He’s also an incredible animal scared of nothing. If necessary, he doesn’t hesitate to challenge a deer weighing four times his weight.

 

In the past, the fallow deer frolicked all over Europe and also in Asia Minor during the last ice age. The fallow deer struggle and had to take refuge in the corners of Asia Minor to survive.

 

It was the Romans who reintroduced it to Europe because they adored  its meat. The Phoenicians were seeking it because they had made it their sacrificial animal. Today, fallow deer is found around the Mediterranean (such as the south of France and Spain), but also in Alsatian and Scandinavian forests. This demonstrates its remarkable qualities of adaptation.

THE EUROPEAN BISON THE HEAVYWEIGHT OF THE RESERVE

Less massive than its American cousin, the European Bison nevertheless remains the largest land mammal in Europe: 800 kg on average for an adult male and a height of 1m80.

 

For all that, this vegetarian heavyweight does not let it go to its head! The fifty specimens present in the Monts d’Azur Animal Reserve actively contribute to the renewal of the biodiversity of forests and plains.

 

Once threatened with extinction, the European bison is on the mend, specifically thanks to the international program set up in partnership with Poland. The Monts d’Azur Reserve has actively contributed to more than 60 births since 2008. 22 young bison have been transferred to other reserves in France, Holland, and Spain.

PRZEWALSKY’S HORSE THE WILD CHARACTER OF THE RESERVE

Never approach a Przewalski’s Horse, its mood is terrible. It bites and kicks for no reason.

On the Reserve, this grumpy animal dares to face the bison twice as heavy as him.

This is why, legend claims that man could never domesticate the horse. Having therefore never been subject to artificial selection, it is the specie closest to the prehistoric horse.

 

Its small size (between 1m30 to 1m40 at the withers) does not prevent it from proudly upholding a large head carried by a thick neck. Its ears are rather long and its eyes set high on a flat forehead, giving it a more forward gaze than other horses.

THE RED DEER THE KING OF THE FOREST

The Red Deer, emblematic animal, symbol of power for some, of nobility for others, has been present in European forests for 250,000 years.

Its numbers have fluctuated with the rhythm of the ice ages and are currently estimated, in France, at 150,000 individuals. However, it remains difficult to observe.

The Red Deer loses its antlers yearly, at the end of winter or at the very beginning of spring, and wears a new set every summer.

SMALL UNGULATES OTHER WONDERS
OF THE RESERVE

Discover the other wonders of the Reserve: the ungulates are herbivorous mammals with paws covered with either nails or a hoof.

Some ungulates have horns, such as bison or chamois. Others have antlers such as deer, roe deer or elk.

This group of animals includes horses, ruminants, and pigs but also the elephant and the aardvark!

In the Reserve, small ungulates are the roe deer, chamois, and wild boar.

SPRINGTHE BIRTHING SEASON
With the air temperature now in the positives again, the snow is melting and the wild animals are finding more favourable living conditions. The thaw in March and the arrival of the first rains stimulate the revival of the vegetation. Animals gain access to new food resources. The females are then able to produce quality milk, necessary for the growth of the young. Conditions have become conducive to births.
SUMMERA CALM AND EASY LIFE
The spring rains and the heat that sets in promotes the growth of herbaceous plants. The time of suffering seems far away! In a few weeks, the snow-scorched lawns are replaced by vast, colourful, rich, and flamboyant plant diversity. Covering the green meadows, the flowers attract a multitude of insects, a treat for birds and insectivorous mammals. Even the fox watches for the grasshoppers and crickets.
FALLTHE SEDUCTION OF THE DEER
The warriors are now ready for their love games. It starts at the beginning of September after the storms at the end of August. Meanwhile, herds of deer roam the Reserve pretending to ignore the preparations of the mating rituals. With autumn advancing, the high temperatures are fading. The first roar rings out, making the nights noisy for their neighbours in the lodges! The animals then begin their ballets wandering around to choose their suitors.
WINTERTHE TIME OF SURVIVAL
From mid-November, the hungry fauna reaches the undergrowth of the forest where it knows how to find plants that were not eaten during the summer. It manages to feed by scraping the last growths, even dry ones, by looking for remnants of persistent greenery or by picking the fruits of rosehip and hawthorns. Today, when the winters are harsh, and because they can no longer migrate, we have to feed the wildlife if we don't want to see it disappear forever.