Recognise animal footprints in the mountains

Recognise footprints

So who's passed by here?

The mountain fauna leaves footprints, tracks and clues on the snow-covered ground during its essentially twilight, nocturnal and very early morning wanderings.
Some tracks are obvious. We know who the owner is. Others are less so, and can be confusing. Just like when trying to identify the flora, you need to think about the environment, consider various hypotheses, and interpret them to finally suggest the name of an animal, its appearance, its specific features, the probable time it passed by... Every day in winter and spring, the Mountain Guides will always be happy to interpret these clues with you within their context.

The fox:

He’s said to be discreet, cunning and skilful. Formerly called "goupil" and red at the altitude of the villages, which varies beyond 2000 metres, the fox can be identified by his very linear tracks and the rather oval shape of his footprints on the ground.

He generally moves about at a gentle trot, as evidenced by his regular footprints: the animal often places one of his hind legs in the footprint made by the front leg. You can tell which direction he was going because the front of the print is slightly more pointed.

The vole:

He lives in his burrows with multiple galleries, moving around mainly under the snow because he’s the prey of multiple predators (fox, ermine, dog, kestrel...). He digs tunnels in the snow to reach the surface. He leaves a linear track, that of his tail (the length of which is about the same as his body).

The chamois:

With clearly rectangular, narrow footprints, he leaves deep marks in the snow while moving at walking pace. A male individual can weigh up to 50 kilos! Sometimes you can also see the traces of his hooves (digits) on the surface of the snow. The way these footprints are organised shows us the direction taken by the animal.


The wild rose bush offers mountain fauna a highly nutritious berry: the rose hip, which attracts birds. Birds leave rounded marks: from the impact of their tail on landing. According to the size of the marks left by the tail feathers, you can try to guess the species of bird: blackbird, yellow-billed chough etc.

The mountain hare:

The hare often leaves 4 imprints: two located one behind the other and two others side by side. This animal moves almost exclusively by leaps. Its speed can be determined by the spacing between groups of prints.

The mountain hare, also called a “whitecoat”, has powerful hind legs. It lands on its front legs, one slightly in front of the other, but on the same line, rolls its shoulders to place its rear legs in front of the previous marks, sometimes quite far in front when it’s moving at high speed.

Now that you’re ready to spot animal tracks, we hope you enjoy some great winter hikes!