Let's respect this great playground
The Mont-Blanc Massif is actually a fragile natural environment to which we must pay great attention. To contribute to the protection of it, we are counting on the engagement of each person. We have the duty of doing all that we can to limit our impact to the minimum.
As the organiser, the UTMB® has developed numerous actions to protect the natural environment and to raise awareness amongst all the players. This is a collective action which involves the organisation, regional groups, runners and supporters, partners and volunteers( Ambassadors for the Environment).
We, ourselves, have formed a Commission for the Environment which guides the projects and we set ourselves ambitious environmental objectives. We are always looking for ways of progressing in this domain and incite everybody to adopt an ecologically responsible attitude.
CATTLE RAISING AREAS
Trail running is practiced in an exceptional environment. Trails often wind through forests and the typical mountain pastures of the Mont Blanc massif.
Agro-pastoral activity plays a major role in mountain territories. Not only does it contribute to the economy of the territory, but it also shapes the landscape and contributes to its preservation. Domestic animals also play a major role in the preservation of the biodiversity of open environments, maintaining a balance in the richness and diversity of the landscape, thus facilitating the development of local fauna and flora. During the summer, from May to October, herds roam the mountain pastures while the meadows in the valley are mowed to store fodder for the following winter.
Cows, goats, ewes... whether it’s milk or meat, farming and mountain pastures also allow the production of excellent local specialties, labelled PDO (Protected Designation of Origin): Beaufort, Abondance, Fontina, Raclette du Valais, ... Every herd is managed in a different way, kept in a pen or supervised by shepherds and mountain farmers. These men and women also manage the haying, the pens, and maintain access roads and barns. They also take care of the animals and produce milk related products. Did you know that shepherds, just like everyone else, pay rent and are tenants of the alpine pastures they manage? Mountains and pastures belong to private and public owners.
When crossing alpine pastures, don’t forget that you are a guest! You are invited to enjoy the experience and invited to respect the environment, people and herds that you will meet! In order to promote a respectful coexistence, please respect the following rules:
- Stay on the marked trails
- If there is a herd on the trail, move around
- Close fences after passing
- Don't rinse your shoes in the troughs where animals drink
- Don't pet the herd or the dogs
- No littering
- Respect the shepherd’s privacy, stay away from their mountain chalets
WOLFS AND SHEEP DOGS
Used in France until the end of the 19th century, sheep dogs have gradually disappeared from our countryside along with large predators. In the last few years, wolf packs have been returning to our mountain range thus causing many changes in the shepherds’ job. The protection of the herds requires several measures (surveillance of the herd, electrified fences) and sheep dogs often prove to be the most effective solution. Sheep dogs are often referred to as "patous", which is in fact one of the most common breeds of sheep dogs.
They have great sense of smell that allows for them to quickly detect a predator. These dogs are indeed capable of adapting their defense strategy... but they must also coexist with the other users of the mountain! On the other hand, their sight is not excellent, thus forcing them to move closer to any source of disturbance. If the training of sheep dogs and shepherds remains a determining factor, hikers and trail runners must also adapt their behavior to coexist with these creatures.
Far from being machines, dogs have indeed their own disposition, emotions and reactions, and some best practices help us to manage these interactions very well.
HOW SHEEP DOGS BEHAVE
- They approach to identify if there is a threat coming
- They bark to alert and dissuade
- To identify you, the dog(s) may need to come closer to see and smell you
- If you move suddenly and rapidly, your movement could be perceived as a threat
WHAT TO DO WHEN APPROACHING A SHEEP DOG
- Go around the herd without putting yourself in danger.
- Do not scare the dog: speak gently, don’t shout.
- If the dog comes close:
- Stop or move forward slowly
- Do not stare into his eyes
- Talk to them calmly
- Stay calm
- If you are using poles, take them in one hand, point them downwards, do not wave them around.
- If you have a bag, a cap or your bike, you can put it between you and the dog.
Also, keep in mind that shepherds set up pens where the animals are grouped at night to protect them from possible predator attacks. These pens are usually near the shepherds' huts.
In the middle of the night, a trail runner (with their headlamp, smell, noises, ...) will alert the sheep dogs and wake up the shepherd.
For your safety and to respect local workers, please avoid night training in the mountain pastures or get informed about the presence of herds!