Mystery mountain ibex moves into Haute-Savoie garden

Gaston the Ibex has been staying in the garden for three weeks, and has even been seen sleeping next to the house cats (Danielle Belletti / screenshot / France Info)

A mysterious Alpine ibex has moved into a private garden in the Haute-Savoie, with the owner and a local expert surprised and unsure of why it has made itself at home.

The animal has been staying in Danielle Belletti’s garden in the mountain village of Servoz, in the Chamonix valley, for three weeks, despite having easy access to the wild.

He has the mountain breed’s imposing horns, and observers believe he is around 12 years old.

Ms Belletti has nicknamed him “Gaston”, and said he usually spends the majority of his days wandering her garden, sniffing the lavender and nibbling the roses.

She contacted Jacques Toni, a local wild animal expert and wolf catcher, when Gaston arrived - but he has not been able to explain the behaviour either.

Mr Toni has admitted that he does not know why an ibex would take up residence in a local garden, and has been surprised by the apparent gentleness and domestication of the beast.

He said: “Once, when I came over [to the garden], he was sleeping right next to one of the house cats. I have never seen that.”

Ms Belletti has taken photos of Gaston, but has not yet approached the animal up close for fear to her safety - although he has not been aggressive, and even shows affectionate signs of acknowledging her when she comes outside.

She said: “I am not really afraid, but I do not know exactly how he would react if I came up close to him.”

Villagers remain welcoming but cautious.

Ibex are also known as “steinbocks” in English, and “bouquetins” in French. Although often referred to as a “deer”, they are actually more closely related to wild goat, and do not eat meat.

They tend to live in mountainous regions, and usually prefer higher altitudes near the mountain “snow line”. In Europe, they can be found across the European Alps, including in France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Bulgaria, and Slovenia.

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