French Wildlife

France is a remarkably different country even if it is just over twenty miles across the channel. Even in the Ardennes region, with a climate similar to ours in England, we found different species of insects, invertebrates, birds and animals.

When we moved into our first house in Mouzon, we found a colony of Firebugs (Gendarmes) was huddled together out of reach (because of the high ceilings) in the bedroom. Later we discovered that the back wall of the out building was also covered in these bright red and black insects.

Small snails with light brown shells and spiral markings in white and brown, probably Cepaea vindobonensis, are a common sight. On one occasion I saw an enormous snail with a light grey body making its way across a road, which must have measured six inches from head to tail.

We always look out for the buzzards (les buses) when we go across country to our GP. On one occasion, I was travelling in the car parallel to a buzzard coming in for the kill. As the prey was close to the road, I got a very close view of the bird, which turned its back on me and flew off, preventing me from seeing his dinner.

On motorway journeys, we often see several birds of prey simply perched on fence posts along the side of the road.

A couple of storks (le cicogne) caused a stir when they settled on the roof of our local church. (see photo).

Wildlife appears to be more abundant in France, which means you are more likely to see animals than in the UK. Early one morning, I came virtually face to face with a red deer (le cerf) with a female (la biche). He looked at me for a split second before trying to bolt across the road – trying because he had no grip at all and slipped in every direction. The female ran straight into the wood.

The Ardennes is famous for its wild boar whose population has exploded in the past ten years. The local hunters take their responsibility for trying to control the numbers very seriously indeed. The countryside is sparsely populated and for this reason, friction between hunters and the rest of the population is rare. Wild boars can be dangerous so I was quite pleased to see two of them running down the side of the road at dusk from the safety of a car.

Our factory is on an island on the river Meuse. In broad daylight, I saw a muskrat (le musqué) on the river bank briefly before it swam off down the river. On the other side of the island, beavers (le castor) have built their trademark home although I have not yet seen a beaver. Similar to the beaver but without the tail are the coypu (le ragondin) and apparently these are very common in the Meuse at Sedan. Some of our hunters have seen raccoons (le raton laveur) – an imported species, in the woods.

These examples come from the Ardennes – I wonder what experiences members of SFN have had – especially further south?


Thanks Chris:-)

Just came across this today with a bunch of notifications Vic. Thought you may be interested and if you are into wildlife this is the group to join in Brittany. Lot's of interesting educated knowledgeable people.


The information you have shared with us in the course of the various discussions has been fantastic - I bow to your excellent knowledge of the subject. Many thanks Chris.

Well it is "a pheasant" but do you know how many different species there are in France?

I don't but it must be 40 or so without hybridisation and I think that is what is known as a Mongolian Ringneck.

Can I bore you? Yeah, sure I can. They are as most people will know not native species and have been introduced for both hunting and simple domestic purposes. Some 10 million+ pheasant and red legged partridge are breed in captivity every year to be released just before the season for shooting.

They are so stupid that when they see a person they think they are going to be given dinner - BANG.

I've got a few in my fields at the moment, perhaps they will stay where they are.


At that price, nobody would be interested around here - we saw a beautiful pheasant today (road kill but not mangled) on our way to do some shopping. On the way back it was still lying in the road and it was still not mangled. It's surprising nobody picked it up.

Pheasants! ten a centime around here!! Never seen a rabbit. white, pink or otherwise. It is a pheasant isn’t it Chris? :wink:

I saw my first pheasant this week and people assure me they are common, whereas my mate has never seen rabbits hereabouts and we have dozens at the bottom of our field, 200 odd metres from his house. Hunters go nuts looking for boar and somebody just up the road from us goes spare about the damage they do where they go through the hedge into his field on the way to his wood, where they allegedly munch away his chanterelles and trompetes! I think it is all very strange. I suspect much of it is to do with the local hooch half of them pour down their gullets - pink rabbits this neighbourhood I think ;-)

beat the hell out of 'em! Thanks Chris. Dunno what the car analogy has to do with it but several hunter/gatherer/ bouleists tonight admitted that they had seen a squirrel & one even said he'd seen a rabbit although judging by the state of him it could have been a white'n. Good on yer matey. Still don't like the "locals know very little" statement but there sure appear to be squirrels & rabbits around here. Perhaps it's us Brits who know naff all;-))

For those that are interested this is the site for the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle Paris, (there are other "branches"), where all wildlife recording in France is either organised from or collated. Here you will find information for a great number of species in France and ultimately it will have all the species. It's a great resource as will be your local recognised bird or nature association. You departmental Association will have various meetings, educational events and recording schemes you can participate in.


If you are happy with that why not? It's no skin of my nose what anyone wants to trust in or believe, it's just that when I want my car repaired I don't take it to the breakers yard.

Hope you win.


Many thanks for your simplistic answer Chris. I'm just off to play boules where I'm sure the local hunter/ gatherers will be pleased to hear that a Brit has said they "know very little about the wildlife" here. It's obviously going to be too complicated for me so I'll just look out of my window & wonder! The good side is that the local Bouleists will probably be so annoyed I'll be able to take some money off them :-))

My experience based on many, many years here is that most people raised in the French countryside know very little about the wildlife. Sure they know what they can eat but that tends to be the extent of it, far less knowledge than all the people that I was raised with in the UK countryside that couldn't be kept out of ponds, woodlands, finding birds nests etc. It simply isn't really in the French culture and I can assure you that the people with the French bird and wildlife assos I'm involved with will say the same, it's something very British.

I put "simplistically" because it would be possible to devote a book to any given species and there are plenty around, so it was just that, picking out a couple of general behavioral features.

It's complicated? Well, it often is with developments and greater use of DNA sequencing that keep changing the understanding of different species, whether they are a sub species and even the family they belong to, the case of Campagnol Terrestre is one such.

I'm also not at all convinced that Forums are the best medium for such matters and prefer an actual physical presentation / debate / Q&A, hence I try to include plenty of links to enable people to do their own research and Lord knows I can spend days if not weeks sometimes just on one tiny thing or species and still only know a fraction of what could be known.


Chris. You have used the words "Simplistically" & "It's a bit complicated" a few times now & have told me "I would also warn against taking too seriously what the locals may tell you" As a matter of interest, is French Wildlife complicated per se & thus difficult to understand or is that just your perception of the subject & others ability to understand it?

@Jane Williamson. As I said above - It's a bit complicated.

European Water Vole Arvicola amphibious Campagnol Terrestre Previously known as Arvicola. Terrestris. Linnaeus proposed both amphibius and terrestris in 1758 on the same page,they are now considered conspecific by most researchers.

Just to add.


Our Guide del la Faune et de la Flore says that there are two types of Rat Taupier. L’un terrestrial et l’autre aquatiqe ce dernier souvent appele : rat d’eau. We have the terrestrial type.

These carrot eating thieves can cause you more problems than that!
I have turned my ankle when I slipped into one of their galleries, which are very close to the surface.

Thank you for sharing this film, Chris. we intend to watch it tomorrow.

for those with misgivings about the name Rat taupier, it is the European water vole in English!

Dear Carol - thank you for your kind words. You may be interested in looking at my blog "My first year in Champagne Ardenne" which relates to 2009. I really want to make the best of it whilst I am in France. Happy Christmas to you too!