Birdski: mitigating threats in ski areas to protect Bearded Vultures in the French Alps

Bearded Vulture in flight (c) Hansruedi Weyrich
Bearded Vulture in flight (c) Hansruedi Weyrich

The mountain massifs of the French Alps host large raptors such as the Bearded Vulture and Golden eagle as well as mountain Galliformes like the Black grouse and Rock ptarmigan. However, they are also home to many ski areas, which can pose severe threats to bird populations. To mitigate threats, Parc national de la Vanoise together with Asters and l’Observatoire des galliformes de montagne (OGM) are launching 'Birdski'. This project aims to preserve birds living in ski areas by working with ski resorts in the Alps, whose activity impacts the life cycle of certain emblematic species such as the Bearded Vulture. The project launched on 1 January 2020 and will continue until 31 December 2022.

 

The threats of ski areas to birds

The development of ski areas disturbs various bird species. These areas can lead to habitat destruction, mortality by electrocution or collision with cables and disturbance during critical phases of the life cycle such as breeding seasons. These threats can adversely impact bird populations, and so, it is essential to mitigate them.

 

Birdski 

To tackle these threats, the project Birdski came to life, which is a continuation of our LIFE Gyphelp+ Bearded Vulture conservation project in the French Alps. One of the main objectives is to improve knowledge and awareness of these emblematic birds present in ski areas. To do so, Birdski aims to build a partnership with thirty-six ski resorts in the Alps — 17 in Savoie and 19 in Haute-Savoie. The ski areas of Val Cenis, Les Arcs-Peisey Vallandry alongside the Vanoise National Park have been collaborating with Birdski since the start of the project.

 

 

Some of the ways the project will mitigate threats include identifying key zones for implementing measures such as securing ski lift cables or installing bird marks to prevent bird collisions. Furthermore, the project will evaluate the success of actions taken and provide useful feedback to ski areas in the Alps.

 

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