The bank vole, also known locally as the "gnome of the woods", is the most common small mammal in our area.
This tiny, reddish - furred rodent lives in tunnels which it digs just below the soil's surface.
It usually makes its nest under fallen trees, among tree roots or in the undergrowth. Its diet consist mainly of pine nuts, hazelnuts, mushrooms and berries, but it will also eat insect and snail larvae.
In winter it stores food in its underground den, thus favouring the germination of uneaten seeds an the consequent propagation of plants.
The floristic importance of this area was first established in the 18th century when a group of botanists
and herbalists started a serious investigation, identifying and classifying numerous, previously unknown
Today, those plants are still a rare and precious natural heritage to be protected for future generations. They are “botanical endemisms”, species found only in a restricted area, characteristic, in this case, of the Southern Alps.
These plants evolved as separate species because of their geographic isolation following glaciation. During the last ice age, an enormous icecap covered the Alps.
Only a few zones were free, one of which included the peaks of the Southern Alpine foothills, which were never covered by ice.
This area gave shelter to the plants we now recognise as endemic; they were isolated for a very long period of time, gradually adapting to their new environment and evolving into new species.
In the zone that includes the Alta Valvestino (Upper Vestino valley), there are as many as 21 endemisms, eight of which are on the IUCN Red List, a world directory of plants considered at risk of extinction and therefore in need of absolute protection.
The fauna of the Valvestino is very similar to that in other areas of this stretch of the Southern Alps.
Apart from resident species, this is also an important stopover and/or nesting area for numerous migrant passerines: skylarks, siskins, thrushes, etc.
The vast beech and Scots-pine woods, interspersed with light-filled, peaceful clearings, are the favourite habitat of the roe deer, a shy, pretty, hoofed mammal.
Another quite common inhabitant is the deer, whose bell echoes through the area during the autumn rutting time.
Further up are the hoofed mammals typical of high altitudes, the chamois and ibex.
A marmot repopulation programme was implemented in the alpine meadows of Monte Tombea.
In springtime not far from this habitat, the call of the black grouse can be heard.
If you are lucky, you may catch glimpses in the woods of woodpeckers, little-owls or the rare capercaillie.
The top predators - golden eagle, short-toed eagle, eagle owl - are also important and are gradually coming back to Valvestino thanks to its favourable environment.
Sometimes the lammergeier, lynx or bear visit this wild corner of the Alps, which testifies to its immense environmental importance.