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Local Wildlife In Tuscany

The hot sun and long, warm days have encouraged a surprising diversity of wildlife to inhabit Tuscany. Tuscany’s national parks, wildlife reserves, mountains and vast woodland areas provide a habitat for wildlife to flourish.

Not many people realise that Tuscany has some fantastic local wildlife to see. Deep in the Tuscan countryside you may come across European animals such as hare, deer, porcupines, badgers, dormice, red foxes, pheasants, wolves, and even wild boar.

Tuscany is also a great place to go bird watching. A wide range of beautiful birds can be spotted throughout the region. Birdwatching enthusiasts should head to the mountains and marshlands to see birds such as the tawny owl, herons, ring ouzel and the rare glossy ibis.

Read about some of the most common animals found in Tuscany by clicking on the links below and book your Tuscan wildlife adventure.

Local Wildlife In Tuscany

Scorpions of Tuscany, Italy, Europe

The scorpions found in Italy and Tuscany are not venomous. They are black and small, rarely growing beyond 30mm in length, and if they do sting, the result is similar to that of a bee or wasp sting. Only people with allergies to insect stings need to take further precautions. If a scorpion is found inside a building, it simply needs to be trapped and removed.

A holiday in Italy wouldn't be complete without meeting some of the local residents; however, perhaps the native scorpion population wasn't what you had in mind! Before you start jumping on the sofa, it's worth mentioning that the variety you'll find in Tuscany are pretty harmless. While a Tuscan scorpion can give you a nasty sting, it's been likened to the strength of a bee or wasp, so although this isn't pleasant, you won't find yourself in hospital.

In actual fact there are about 1,400 species of scorpion in the world, and surprisingly, only 25 of these are fatal to humans, giving the rest a bad name. Thankfully, the species of scorpion you'll find in Europe aren't dangerous, although allergic reactions have been observed in some unlucky victims.

As scorpions are nocturnal, you'll be lucky to see one during the day, although if you leave the door to your villa open overnight, they could venture inside. It's best to take sensible precautions by ensuring you eliminate their food sources, so make sure you buy a household pest spray to keep flies and spiders at bay. Shake out any clothes or bedding before getting inside, and don't walk around the villa barefoot.

Scorpion attacks are relatively rare in Tuscany, but if the worst does happen, then it's important to know how to treat the sting. First of all, be sure to clean the affected area with soap and water to rid the site of any dirt and bacteria. Elevate the affected limb and apply a cold compress to soothe the swelling. Finally, take some simple pain relief tablets, and within 30 minutes you should notice the pain beginning to subside. If you experience any further symptoms or a child is stung, it's best to be seen by a doctor to be on the safe side.
Here is some further information about Scorpions
Euscorpius alpha Caporiacco, 1950.
This species was formerly known as a subspecies of E. germanus. Molecular and genetic analysis of the different populations of E. germanus in southern Switzerland, northern Italy and southern Austria revealed the presence of two different forms, separated by the river Adige (Etsch) in the northern Italy. The genetic difference between the two forms was large enough to justify an elevation of the western form to a new species, E. alpha in the end of 2000.
It is almost impossible to separate E. alpha and E. germanus by using morphological characteristics, but collection site will tell which species you have. E. alpha (western distribution) and E. germanus (eastern distribution) do not overlap in distribution. E. alpha is a small, black scorpion, which rarely reach more than 30 mm in length. It is usually found in mountain areas with a reasonable high humidity, often under stones, logs etc. A. alpha is so far reported from Italy and southern Switzerland.

Venom: Few medical data available, but data from Italy suggest local effects only. Mildly venomous. Harmless scorpion, which rarely will use its stinger.

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Wild Boar

Wild boar are numerous in Tuscany, and the best time and place to see them is at night near cultivated land. Boar love to feed on grapes in the vineyards. They are hunted between November and January, and boar meat is so popular that one dish - Pappardelle Cinghiale - is known as Tuscany's national dish.

The Tuscan wild boar – or 'cinghiale' – has the dubious double honour of being a local emblem and a local delicacy. It enjoys a measure of protection, particularly in the densely forested slopes of the Maremma and in other regional parks, but the snuffling and foraging which usefully aerates the woodland floor is less welcome in village gardens - or in Tuscany's famous vineyards. Tempted down from the hills by the scent of ripening grapes, wild boar can rip through rows of vines in minutes, causing damage counted in the millions.

Given the animal's reputation as a pest, few locals argue with the need for population control. The hunting season – between mid-September and late-January – remains part of the rural year, particularly for the older generation, and provides a prime ingredient for rich and sustaining recipes. When simmered, the lean meat lends a subtly gamey flavour to the sauce for pappardelle cinghiale: the closest thing Tuscany has to a national dish. Savouring it on a winter's day with a fine wine may demonstrate why many in the countryside are reluctant to abandon their tradition.

Fortunately, Tuscany's visitors tend to take a gentler interest in these creatures. Your best chance of spotting a wild boar is when driving along a winding country road at dusk. Look for a blackish-grey back, with a slight bristly ridge, hidden in the undergrowth; if the boar ventures out, you'll notice the distinctive, wedge-like silhouette, the animal's long snout and its surprisingly dainty trot. The young are more or less as Walt Disney would have drawn them: cute piglets with pale stripes running through their chocolate-brown fur. Be aware that their mothers may attack if they feel their family is threatened; however, this is probably the only time that you have anything to fear.

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Of all the creatures populating Tuscany, the porcupine can be the most aggressive. Its poor eyesight means it is prepared to attack first and ask questions later. Porcupines are mostly active at night, but if one is spotted during the day it should be left alone. Aggressive behaviour includes grunts, stamping feet and rattling the spines on its tail.

In a region with so many claims to fame, it’s highly unlikely that anyone has ever visited Tuscany for a porcupine-spotting holiday. But, in practice, that works out just fine. For bright-eyed visitors bristling with curiosity about the area’s wildlife, the sight of one of these quietly confident locals is an unexpected highlight. And as for the largely peace-loving ‘istrici’, they are happy to keep a low profile – if that’s the right phrase for a creature with a coat of white-tipped spines on its back. Safe from all but the most confident predators, they continue doing what they do best: roaming pine woods and farmland with typical rodent resourcefulness.

These quiet creatures are most active between sunset and the early hours of the morning, when acute hearing, sensitive paws and a finely developed sense of smell are more useful than sight, particularly in the burrows and undergrowth that they love. Calm and insouciant by nature, they tend to move at an amble rather than a scuttle; although if you happen to see them at their most impressive, flaring their quills in defence, it’s probably time to get back in the car…

Tuscany’s population of crested porcupines are the descendants of the first few pairs imported from Africa by the ancient Romans, who intended them as a food source. Nowadays, it’s the porcupines which do most of the eating, sometimes roaming over 10 kilometres from their lairs in search of windfall fruits as well as seeds and insects. Their fondness for roots and tubers, combined with an ability to tunnel under fences, infuriates the region’s gardeners, and although porcupines are less destructive than wild boar, they share a notorious appetite for Chianti – or at least the grapes.

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Tuscany is home to both the small roe and larger fallow deer. The shy roe deer herds tend to remain in forests, although cultivated crops can tempt them out to feed, whereas fallow deer herds can be spotted on arable land. Dusk is the best time to see and photograph deer.

There are two main types of deer that can be spotted in Tuscany - the Roe Deer and the Fallow Deer. Both are majestic creautures. It is well worth taking some time away from the busier tourist areas for a trek into the natural areas of Tuscany as spotting a family of deer roaming the Tuscan countryside is a truly amazing experience. Apart from these beautiful animals, a walk in the forests and parks of Tuscany also offers the chance to see some breathtaking natural landscapes.

The Roe Deer is known as the 'Capriolo' in Italian, and it is the smaller of the two species. It weighs around 35kg, and it can be identified by its small tail of only 2-3cm in length. As the seasons change in Tuscany, its coat goes from a red-brown mixture to a warming thick grey colour in the winter months. Its antlers are shed in November before growing again in May to their full length, and watching them jump, swim and run is an incredible sight to see.

The Fallow Deer's Italian name is 'Daino', and it is far larger, with a weight of around 85kg. Its long neck and slim head give it an imposing presence, and it has a unique set of antlers. Take a close look and it is obvious that they have tiny spades on the end to help lift objects from the ground. They also have a beautiful variety of coat colours that create an interesting activity for deer spotters.

Although both types of deer prefer to venture out at dusk, daylight hours provide a great opportunity for spotting females. Their instinct is to protect their young at night, which means that they can be spotted during the daytime. The best place to spot these animals is any location that is rich in blueberries and mushrooms - ideal grazing conditions for the deer.

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There is more to see in Tuscany than the beautiful towns and historic buildings. The countryside is spectacularly beautiful and contains a wealth of wildlife, some of which tourists may only have seen before in zoos or television programmes.

One animal you may well spot when visiting Tuscany is the hare. These are much larger than rabbits, their more numerous cousins, and one easy way to tell them apart is their bigger, black-tipped ears. The hare's fur is generally a shade between sand and brown, with white belly-fur, though this can vary; hares to the far north of the country, for instance, turn white in winter in order to blend in with the snow.

This ability to camouflage itself is important as the hare spends a large part of each day lying still amongst the ground cover, hidden from predators. Its preferred territory is cultivated countryside or level ground within forests, where its incredible turn of speed are put to good use when fleeing danger. Hares have longer legs than rabbits and more powerful forelegs. This enables them to make sudden changes of direction when running to throw off pursuit. This is known as telemarking and is a trait that also helps identify hares from rabbits.

Also unlike rabbits, hares do not live beneath ground but in scrapes, small areas of hollowed out ground where they can lie still and camouflaged. Spotting scrapes around a countryside villa in Tuscany is a good sign hares are close by, and the best time to look for them is during the evening and as night falls.

Hares are most active during the hours of darkness, when they feed on plant material and mate. Baby hares are called leverets and can be born throughout the year. When they are born, they are already quite self-sufficient, having eyes and ears already open, unlike many mammals. They are fully grown and independent by the time they reach one year old.

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