Alpine Ibex

Alpine Ibex

Steinbock, Bouquetin

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Subfamily
Genus
SPECIES
Capra ibex
Life Span
10-21 yrs
WEIGHT
17-117 kg
HEIGHT
73-101 cm
LENGTH
121-171 cm

The Alpine or Capra ibex is a species of wild goat that live in European Alps. Alpine ibex has big horns, curved backwards. Horns of female ibexes are a little shorter, subtler and more curved, serving as a mean of self-defense against predators. Usually, males of Alpine ibexes are bigger in size and heavier than females. Another distinctive feature of male ibex is beard on its chin. Coat of the ibex is short and smooth, having different colors, depended on a season of year: in winter they are covered with reddish brown coat while in summer their coats become brownish grey.

Distibution

At one time, Alpine ibex was restricted to Maurienne Valley in France and Gran Paradiso National Park in Italy. However, lately it was re-populated in European Alps. Nowadays, Alpine ibex can be found in French and Italian Alps as well as in Swiss, Austrian and German Alps. In addition to this, the Alpine ibex has also been populated into Slovenian and Bulgarian mountains. The major area of Alpine ibex habitat is rocky terrains and highlands, upward alpine forests while not reaching snow lines, at the height of 2.000 - 4.600 meters (6.500 - 15.000 feet) above sea level.

Alpine Ibex habitat map

Geography

Continents
Introduced Countries

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Ibexes are highly sociable and communicative animals. The ibex female lives within a hierarchy system that implies 1 dominant male and 10 to 20 females in each herd. Males live in herds as well, having their own hierarchy system. As a general rule, male herds are notably smaller: from 6 to 8 males in each herd. In autumns they go rutting. At this period of their lives males live in isolation and can be very aggressive. For ibexes, periods of increased activity are sunrise and sunset while in the daytime they usually prefer staying in shadow. In winters, they stay at medium altitudes on sheer cliffs, facing southwards. With coming of spring and summer approaching, ibexes, together with the line of melted snow, climb up to the highest areas of their habitat. They stay there until autumn.

Diet and Nutrition

Ibexes are herbivores (folivores and lignivores), which means, that they feed mainly on grasses, flowers, bushes, sprigs and other plants of the habitat. In summer season, demand for water increases, and ibexes start looking for areas with a constant source of water.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
starts in late autumn
PREGNANCY DURATION
6 months
BABY CARRYING
1 kid
INDEPENDENT AGE
4-6 months
FEMALE NAME
doe, nanny
MALE NAME
buck, billy
BABY NAME
kid, billy

Alpine ibexes are polygynous, i.e. one male can mate with a number of females. Ibexes start breeding in late autumn. Males take part in battles to decide who will mate the group of females: the winner is allowed to breed with 10 to 20 females. Period of gestation lasts about 6 months, a female giving birth to a single baby, usually in May. Youngsters are very active and as soon as they get out of mother’s womb, they start jumping around. Babies join groups of other youngsters during first month of their lives. After another 4-6 months babies are weaned. The ibex reaches maturity at the age of 8 months – 1 year while starts breeding only at the age of 2 or 3 years.

Population

Population threats

In spite of currently not being threatened with extinction, in the past, the Alpine ibex attracted hunters for its majestic horns. Also, there was a common belief, that specific parts of its body might serve pharmaceutical purposes. Because of these reasons, people used to hunt them down to get a profit. Living in their habitat, Alpine ibexes are in their element: the jagged cliffs and harsh weather conditions. Nevertheless, because of disease susceptibility and parasites as well as their babies facing risk of being stolen and eaten by lynx or golden eagles, Alpine ibexes start looking for larger grasslands, from snow lines to Alpine forests. Thus, they come too close to human settlements, sometimes being interbred with domestic goats. Another considerable threat for Alpine ibex is human intervention in the form of mountaineering or hiking.

Population number

IUCN does not consider Alpine ibex endangered or threatened with extinction. Moreover, the overall population is currently increasing, so in the Red List it’s mentioned as of Least Concern. Nowadays, there are over 30.000 individuals of Alpine ibex: around 15.000 of these live in Swiss Alps, about 9.700 - in Italian Alps, 3.200 - in Austrian Alps, 3.300 - in French Alpine region. Other notable estimated populations are: 250 individuals in Slovenia and 220 - in Germany.

Ecological niche

Being herbivores, Alpine ibexes have noticeable impact on plant community, controlling its range. On the other hand, being a prey species, ibexes control population of predators in the habitat.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • A species of birds, called Gackles, help ibexes get rid of parasites, grooming their coats.
  • In the 18th century there was a common belief in Europe that Alpine ibex was a magical animal. The modern equivalent of this ‘magical animal’ is Capricorn, a mark of zodiac.
  • Ibexes are able to jump from one jagged cliff to another without any difficulty, passing through the most impassable and trackless places. They are very dexterous, being able to make a 1.8 meters (6 feet) jump up without a running start.
  • The ibex has sharp-edged hooves. A hoof is concaved undersides and serves as a reliable support, helping the ibex to keep balance while jumping from one steep cliff to another.
  • Ibexes do the impossible, climbing up the Cingino Dam (Piedmont, Italy) in order to lick salt and moss left on the stones by water.
  • On sunny days, Alpine ibexes can often be seen napping on the rocks.

References

1. Alpine Ibex Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpine_ibex
2. Alpine Ibex on The IUCN Red List - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/42397/0

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