Foxy problems in the Sierra Nevada, Spain

It seems to me that the amount of fox related incidents is increasing in these mountains. I remember when I first came out here some 10 years ago that they were shy, retiring creatures, that you sometimes caught a glimpse of early in the mornings, or late at night. Not any more!

Some high level traverses of “Los Tres Miles Integral” some 4 years ago suggested problems were mounting. We had breakfasts stolen overnight and were disturbed by noisy packs.

One guy even had his expensive tent ruined by a fox that ripped through the outer and inner at 6 in the morning. It grabbed his food bag that lay by his feet. The strange thing was that the fox wasn’t put off by the client’s shouts and gesticulations and managed to escape with the food. Another client had a washbag stolen for some strange reason, presumably to brush it’s teeth and moisturise it’s delicate skin!

Next encounter was when I joined a spanish mate of mine, on his night-shift, in his Pistebasher preparing the ski pistes of the Sierra Nevada. There seemed to be foxes everywhere, illuminated in the powerful headlights of the Piste Machine. Therein lies the answer? The deserted ski slopes in winter, especially around the Borreguilles area at 2500m where the restaurants are, are rich pickings for hungry foxes. They make there way down at night and feast on the leftovers. They have become “humanised” in that they are starting to rely less on their own hunting and foraging and at the same time are getting less and less afraid of human intervention.

Latest harrassment occurred 2 nights ago at 3am, near the Laguna de Lanjaron, when 2 self guided clients had problems. Yvonne Holland awoke with pressure from outside the tent against her face. It was a fox. It then broke through the tent fabric at the foot of the tent and took all the hill food and breakfasts. An unnerving experience to say the least!

The areas where you will encounter problems are around the ski centre area, the Elorietta hut, Laguna de Lanjaron, Col de Cariguela and the laguna and hut at the Caballo. Be warned!

I have never had a problem at Siete Lagunas or elsewhere in the Sierras, presumably because it is some distance from the ski centre area. The foxes here are still rather shy and timid.

Written by:
Richard Hartley

Richard is an avid blogger and the founder of Spanish Highs Sierra Nevada. He is author of the Cicerone Guidebook Walking and Trekking in the Sierra Nevada