Blog Hiking

The Oeille of the Bouquetin

Today, we’d like to recommend a very nice hike in the Vercors massif if you want to go and say hello to the ‘bouquetins’ (also called ibexes): the Pas de l’Oeille! This hike starts at an altitude of about 2,250 meters and reaches a maximum altitude of 2,000m.

The hike starts from Prélenfrey, South of Grenoble (Exit 12 Sisteron/Vif on the A51 then follow the Col de l’Arzelier). The car park is located at the end of the forest road, as indicated on the map below. Signs then clearly mark the path to the Pas de l’Oeille. These signs indicate a hiking time of about 2h45 to cover the 8km but it is quite feasible in 2 hours.

The .gpx track we recorded during this hike is downloadable here :

The climb starts in the forest undergrowth and the slope starts out steep from the beginning. About halfway up, the Baraque des Clos appears, where a spring generally flows until spring. The ascent then continues in a scree and up into the cliff until you reach the pass. The day we went on that hike, we were in fog but we’ve heard that the view on the cliffs of the Vercors is really very beautiful 🙂

That being said, even in the fog, it’s worth the effort! For lack of being able to use our sight, our sense of smell was useful to us to smell the bouquetins when we arrived at the top, and we were able to surprise the herd in the middle of their morning nap.

Pop quiz:
Which of the following animals is a bouquetin?

Okay, the males are easy, but can you do it with the females, too?

This herd is there almost permanently which makes it a very frequented spot, it is better to arrive a little early thus to have the privilege to observe and approach the herd. Threatened with extinction in the 1960s, the Alpine Bouquetin was reintroduced throughout the Alps, notably by the Vercors Regional Nature Park in 1989. It is currently a protected species at national level. These various reintroductions over the years have been successful and the population has now reached almost 10,000 individuals in France.

Bouquetins were already represented in the Lascaux cave more than 15,000 years ago!

The bouquetin has no predators strictly speaking, apart from the occasional hungry wolf or golden eagle, which can prey on the young, so it is not too shy and can be approached closely – and vice versa! Indeed, we sat a little uphill from the herd to observe it, but the creatures gradually got closer to us until they completely encircled us 🙂 The bouquetin is fortunately a herbivore so nothing to fear!

A little anecdote: bouquetins become adults after two years. There are therefore two categories of “young” in the herd in spring: those that have just been born and are protected by the females (the bouquetins have a day-care system where the females take turns guarding all the young in the herd); and the young that are already one-year-old and play and imitate the adults, especially by fighting among themselves. The sound of the horns banging against each other is really impressive!

Thank you Renaut for your photos 🙂

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