|Swiss Alpine Fauna|
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In the distant past the Swiss Alps were inhabited by such creatures as the cave bear, cave lion and panther, and not more than a few hundred years ago the most prolific animals found in the Alpine valleys included the lynx and wildcat, and the wolf. Periods of glaciation drove the first group from the mountains, while hunters reduced the numbers of the latter: the last wolf in Switzerland was thought to have been shot in 1947, but a handful of suspected sightings of wolves during 1999 in the Valais are under current investigation by naturalists. Hunting is still popular today, but is generally under strict controls. The Parc Naziunal Svizzer in the Lower Engadine (Swiss National Park; see p.469) is a haven for numerous resident and migratory animals, and is perhaps the country’s most rewarding location for the casual wildlife observer, since something like half of the seventy species of mammals found in Switzerland can be seen there.
Alpine fauna is noted for its extreme shyness, which is why observation can be difficult, but many animals that inhabit the more remote regions of the high Alps also descend to lower altitudes. The following survey, though by no means comprehensive, picks out the highlights.
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