mammals in France and Spain


I’m thinking of doing a trip through France and northern Spain, ending up in the Cordillera Cantabrica, looking for wolves. I’ve done a similar trip before, although, most of the time then was spent in Spain, with just a little in the French Pyrenees. I’m hoping to see some of the mammals I failed to see before and I’m after tips for good spots generally for mammals and herp.s

In particular can anyone recommend somewhere where there’s actually a reasonable chance of beech martin? In the past I’ve stayed in a B & B which fed pine martins, in Scotland, is there a similar place in France? Also does anyone have any good sites for Alpine ibex and southern water vole? I believe Pyranean desman is very difficult, anyone managed to see it?
In the past I’ve rather neglected bats and small mammals that need trapping. I’m going to try and rectify that so any good spots would be appreciated. I’m particularly keen to see garden dormouse. Does anyone know the legal position regarding small mammals trapping in France? Having nearly been arrested in Spain for doing in, I’m keen not to repeat the experience.

Any wolf or bear watching tips also appreciated.

Any help much appreciated.




  • Jon Hall

    Steve, details on my site for a very good Water Vole place (near Cannes) and Ibex spots too. Beech Martins are probably easier to see in urban areas – I saw them a few times around St Germain En Laye and L’ Etang La Ville (the western suburbs near Paris). I’d have thought a couple of nights spotlighting along residential roads ought to find one.

    I’ve never had any issues with trapping in France. Trapping specifically for species like shrews is probably prohibited by the EU but otherwise its fine. The French don’t care much about stuff like that.

    Garden Dormouse is quite widespread and common. They sometimes move into old farm buildings so you might find one that way – ask around where you are staying.

    I’m looking for Desmans in northern spain in October. They are apparently very hard to find but I will let you know. When is your trip?

    • Pj

      Jow, nice site and forum.
      Since my mate and I would like to go search for minks and desmans in France and the Pyrenees next april, I’m allready looking forward to reading the trip report you announced (‘coming soon’) !
      If I may ask, which way of searching would you recommend for seeing minks?
      All tips of do’s and dont’s that will increase our chances are welcome;)



  • white1985

    I spent a few days in Picos de Europa last year. I planned to look for desmans, but it was a family trip and somehow I ended up not trying really hard. I had some coordinates of desman sites from a scientific article. They did research in the area a few years ago and listed the spots where they collected animals. With some time (also to check out the spots to make sure that the small rivers didn’t dry out etc) and a lot of patience, it should be possible! I’ll try to find back the pdf-file of the article. I did see pyrenean chemois, fox, roe deer, wood mouse and black rat. Apparently snow voles are easy on the tracks around the cable station at Fuente De but I was there on a very busy Sunday afternoon and saw no mammals.

  • Steve Babbs

    Thanks for your replies. I’ll be there in July/August. I probably should say I’ll have my family with me, so family friendly areas are ideal. I have to admit spotlighting in urban areas sounds like a recipe for lots of people wanting to know what an earth you are up to. I was thinking of including the Picos. The cable car does make it easier to get up high with young kids. I’ve been there a couple of times before; I didn’t see snow vole either, but it was busy and to be honest I didn’t really know to look for them, so I’ll keep my eyes open this time.



  • maurice tijm


    If you decide to head towards Cannes anyway; I had very successful evening spotlighting at camping Ararat in the Alps-maritimes just above Nice. I saw a Garden Dormouse, a few Edible Dormouse and Yellow-necked Mouse. The bark of some of the trees around the campsite was stripped off by the Edible Dormouse. Very nice place for a night. There was quite some mammal activity in the trees, it only is a bit hard not to frustrate the other guests and neighbours while you unpurposely set their tent or garden in full light. (Dutch)

    In the Pyrenees we didn’t see any mammals, we saw our Pyrenean Chamois in the Somiedo area while checking bear lookouts (no luck with the bears of course).

    Gran Paradiso at the French border in Italy is a well known spot for Alpine Ibex.

    Hope anyone is successful in spotting these Desman!

    Maurice Tijm

  • Steve Babbs


    Thanks, I’ll be mainly camping anyway so that sounds like a good spot to try.



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