Alpine Ibex

The Alpine Ibex has many different names, as it is called by local names in various languages. The Alpine Ibex is also called the French bouquetin, stambecco in Italy, steinbock in Geerman, and in Slovenian as kozorog.

An excellent climber, the Alpine Ibex lives in the higher regions of the world. Its habitat is the rocky region of the snow line found higher past the European Alps’ alpine forests. The Alpine Ibex can manage the steep terrains and the rocky regions at high elevations.

alpine ibexGrowing up to about a height of a full meter, or about 3.3 feet from hoof to shoulder, the male Alpine Ibex weighs for about 220 lb, which is about 100 kilograms. The female Alpine Ibex grows for about half of that size. Males also have a prominent beard, which further distinguishes them from females. Backward curving horns are present in both male and female Alpine ibex. There is a slight increase in the size of horns for males, which can actually grow for up to about one meter. The Alpine ibex uses its horns to protect itself from predators like wolves, bears, foxes, and the lynx. Smaller and younger offspring are quite easy for eagles and other birds of prey to pick off, as they have no defenses for aerial attacks.

Taxonomy

Capra ibex [Linnaeus, 1758].

Citation: Syst. Nat., 10th ed., 1:68.

Type locality: Switzerland, Valais.

General Characteristics

Body Length: 75-170 cm / 2.5-5.6 ft.
Shoulder Height: 70-94 cm / 2.3-3.1 ft.
Tail Length: 15-30 cm / 6-12 in.
Weight: 40-120 kg / 88-264 lb.

The coat length varies seasonally, being short and fuzzy during the summer and growing thicker wool and long guard hairs during the winter. Young animals and adult females are generally light ochre brown to pale brown, while the colour of adult males changes seasonally. In summer, the coat is a yellowish brown with darker legs. There are lighter parts on the neck and flanks, and the underparts are white. In late summer, there is a gradual change in seven to twelve year old males to a dark chestnut brown. As spring approaches, this colouration fades. Bucks have a short beard, 6-7 cm / 2.4-2.8 inches long. The heavy body is supported by short, study legs. The sabre-shaped horns curve upward and bend towards the rear. While they are found in both sexes, but are much larger in males than females. Horns on bucks grow up to 100 cm / 40 inches long, and have small bumps on the outer curve. The much thinner, shorter horns of females are smooth, and grow up to 35 cm / 14 inches long.

Habitat and behaviour

Alpine ibex typically inhabit open, rocky habitats at high altitude, above the tree line at an altitude of 1,600-3,200 m. Steep, south-facing slops with rugged topography and grassy vegetation are preferred. Below the tree line, at subalpine levels, ibex are only found in open, sunny woodland interspersed with rocky outcrops.

Living in montane pastures Ibex feed on alpine grasses, herbaceous plants and shrubs. This species is diurnal, but most active during the early morning and late afternoon. They migrate seasonally to different altitudes, spending the harsher winter months at medium elevations.

Ibex are known to be extremely good climbers and do not fear steep slopes. The next series of photo’s show a group of ibex that are climbing up against Cingino Dam In the Italian Alps to eat the lichens from the stones and lick the saline that is disolving from the concreet.