|The chamois is a species of goat antelope that
lives in mountainous areas, mostly in Europe. Best known as the source of
chamois leather, its numbers are now severely reduced. The chamois is
a sturdy, nimble animal that has remarkable leaping ability. Its specially
adapted hooves have soft elastic soles to keep the animal from slipping. These
hooves allow the chamois to grip the steep mountain slopes of its range.
Habits: During spring and fall the chamois lives in alpine forests, just above the tree line. The chamois does not live on mountain tops, but it may move higher up the mountain in summer. In winter it moves down to slopes as low as 1,640 feet and settles in the forest, where food is more plentiful. Females and young usually live in small groups on their own. However, in winter they may join with others groups to form a herd of up to 100 animals. Males are solitary, joining the herd only during the rut (mating season) in the fall.
Breeding: During the chamois rut, from mid October to December, the males join the females and begin to fight for a mate. Males mark their territory with a scent that is emitted from glands located behind the horns. They then chase each other, bleating deeply. They finally engage in a fierce fight, pushing and tearing at each other with their horns. Between April and June the female gives birth to one kid, sometimes two. By tat time the herd has split into small groups again. Just before they give birth, the females drive all the yearlings (young from last years rut) away. Once the kids are weaned, the yearlings can rejoin the group.
Chamois & Man: The chamois's predators include wolves and lynx. Eagles have been known to prey on the kids. But people are the main enemy of the chamois. Its skin is made into chamois leather, and the tufts of hair along the back of the male chamois are displayed in hunters caps. Since it was introduced in New Zealand, the chamois has flourished there. In fact, New Zealanders had to start a funding program to control the number of chamois.
Food & Feeding: The chamois is a grazer and browser, with a diet that consists mainly of mountain grasses and lichen found on the rocky slopes. In the forest, however, the animal has been known to eat pine needles as well as bark.
Related Species: There ae 9 subspecies of chamois. It is closely related to the Rocky Mountain goat, Oreamnos americanus.
Distribution: Found in the Pyrenees, Apennines, and Carpathians. Also found in southwestern Asia and introduced in New Zealand.
Conservation: The chamois was once common throughout central and southern Europe. But hunting for meat and trophies has caused many populations to become severally depleted or even extinct. The Italian subspecies, R. r. ornata, now numbers less than 400.
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Features of the Chamois:
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