• Hirsch am See

Mammals of Parco San Marco

THE RED DEER- Cervuselaphus

Height and fur:

Head-body length: 150 to 250 cm; tail length: 10 to 17 cm. The colouration of the fur changes twice a year: reddish-brown in summer and grey-brown in winter. There is a large yellowish patch on the rump. The calves have light brown fur with white spots.

Evidence of presence:

Various signs indicate the presence of deer: bark-stripped trees (bark provides nutrition during winter); scratches on tree trunks and branches (markings left by the deer by “sweeping” the antlers and scraping the velvet on newly grown saplings and branches); hoof prints; and droppings which look like piles of numerous small black beads.

Special features:

The antlers (wrongly called ”horns”) are a feature of the male deer.  They consist of bone tissue, not horn, and start to grow one year after birth. First they are covered with a velvety layer called the “bast” which the deer scrape off only when growth is complete. From the age of two years until death deer shed their antlers every year. They continue to grow until the animal is fully grown.

Il Cervo Rosso

THE ROE DEER - Capreolus capreolus

Height and fur:

Head-body length: 90 to 130 cm. The roe deer has a very short tail. In summer the fur is a golden red colour with a grey-brown shimmer. There is a large white patch on the rump in winter, heart-shaped on the female’s back (with a tuft of white hair, resembling a tail) and kidney-shaped on the male’s back. Until the age of three months, the fur of the fawn is a reddish colour with white spots. The male has antlers which grow every year and are completely renewed in only 120 days.

Evidence of presence:

The roe deer is a creature of habit; it usually takes itself to the same place at the same time in the evenings. When grazing it leaves unmistakable signs of its presence: hoof prints and droppings. The oblong footprint is small, measuring 5 x 4 cm, and narrows towards the front. The sides of the hooves are convex and prominent, as are the soft undersides. The droppings are small, shiny black, cylindrical and oval. The males leave a trail on bushes and small trees when they scrape the velvet off antlers or mark their territory.

Special features:

The call of the roe deer, signaling anxiety or a warning for nearby kin, sounds like a hoarse, deep barking. Several consecutive barks can be heard at regular intervals.

THE ROE DEER

THE BADGER - Meles meles

Height and fur:

Head-body length: 67 to 80 cm; tail length: 11 to 19 cm. The fur is dense and grey in colour. It consists of long, brittle guard hairs, which are coloured black-white-black from root to tip. Long black and white stripes adorn the head.

Evidence of presence:

It is not easy to observe this nocturnal animal, but the footprints on the softened soil can be recognized clearly. They are reminiscent of those of a small bear because the badger is also a plantigrade. The characteristic way in which droppings are left is an unmistakable indication of its nearby presence; the badger deposits its droppings in pits called “latrines” which consist of either a single hole or of several holes within an area of 2 to 3 m².

Special features:

The badger lives in family units and is an excellent digger. The holes dug into the ground are constantly expanded and are passed on from generation to generation.

Meles

THE RED SQUIRREL - Sciurus vulgaris

Height and fur:

Head –body length: 19 to 29 cm; tail length: 14 to 34 cm. Squirrels have two different colourings: rusty red with a tail of the same colour or reddish-brown with a dark tail.

Evidence of presence:

The proximity of the diurnal squirrel is signalled by piles of pinecone cores and walnut and hazelnut shells under trees where the animal normally feeds.

Special features:

Squirrels do not hibernate but are active throughout the year.

Squirrel

THE WILD BOAR - Sus scrofa

Height and fur:

Head-body length: 110 to 155 cm; tail length: 15 to 20 cm. The coat of wild boars consists of long, coarse, grey and black bristles. The young wild boar piglets have characteristic stripes all over their body while juveniles have a reddish coat.

Evidence of presence:

The footprints of wild boars are clearly recognizable on the loose soil and show the dew claws to the back and on each side of the two toe prints. However the most obvious trace left by wild boars is the disturbed ground. The animals dig up the soil with their snouts looking for tubers, small and large invertebrates, and other edibles.

Special features:

Despite the damage wild boars wreak on agricultural land (cultivated fields, hayfields and pastures), they can be considered beneficial to humans due to their contribution to the regulation of the population of poisonous vipers (Vipera aspis). Wild boars do not fear the bite of this snake because of their thick layer of subcutaneous fat.

THE WILD BOAR

THE DORMOUSE - Glis glis

Height and fur:

Head-body length: 12 to 20 cm; tail length: 11 to 15 cm. The fur is grey on the back, and whitish from the throat to the stomach.

Evidence of presence: 

Dormice prefer to live near or inside human dwellings: attics, farm houses, barns and abandoned houses. Their presence is signalled by large piles of waste (hazelnut and walnut shells) and by small (1 -2 cm), blackish, cylindrical droppings.

Special features

Dormice are gregarious animals and even prefer to hibernate in a group (from 2 to 20 animals).

The dormouse

THE RED FOX - Vulpes vulpes

Height and fur:

Head-body length: 55 – 80 cm; tail length: 35 to 40 cm. Generally the red fox is reddish-brown in colour, with grey shoulders and flanks, and a whitish belly.

Evidence of presence:

The red fox is primarily a nocturnal animal, but its presence can be detected by observing the footprints and droppings. The footprint of the fox (about 5 cm long and 4 – 4.5 cm wide) differs from that of the dog by the two middle toes which are parallel and slightly protruding. It is possible to draw a horizontal line across the fox print, in between the middle toes and the outer toes, without touching the toe pads. Red fox droppings (between 5 and 12 cm long) contain hair and the remains of food and are easily recognizable when left in prominent places such as rocks and tree trunks etc.

Special features:

Foxes dig their own burrows, but also use burrows that have been dug by badgers. Both animals inhabit the burrow together using separate sections so that they do not disturb each other.

Fox

Head image: Wikipedia-Giacomini