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WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE The alpine ibex is a medium-sized bovid, characterized by heavy and strong forms. Male adults have a weight that goes from a maximum of 100-115 kg to a…

The alpine ibex is a medium-sized bovid, characterized by heavy and strong forms. Male adults have a weight that goes from a maximum of 100-115 kg to a minimum – during spring – of 65 -75 kg. Of a smaller size, female ibexes weight from 45 to 65 kg. Both have horns that, in case of males, can reach the length of 100 cm. Horns in females are of limited dimensions, with a maximum development of 25-30 cm. The growth of horns, continuous over the years, is maximum during the first years of life (up to 8-9 cm per year in males), for then reducing with age.
During winter, the fur is dark brown, with brown arts and slightly darker trunk parts. During spring, occurs the only annual hair-shedding: this process leads to the substitution of the thick fur with a lighter and shorter one, that is maintained till the following autumn, when the growth of additional hair will make the animals assume their typical winter coat.

The ibex is basically a gregarious speciesHerdstendentially unisexual, become mixed during the mating period. Females live in herds composed of females with or without newborns and young male up to 2 years.

Perfectly adapted to alpine and high-alpine environments, ibexes are bonded to rocky habitats and high-altitude meadows. In wintertime, this bovid seldomly descend in the forests: they tend to live in sunny but steep slopes. They feed on herbaceous vegetation, included some gramineous plants not liked by other ungulates.

Starting from November, adult males start to manifest first signs of sexual excitation. During this period, they can cover important distances to join female groups. During mating season, starting from December 10th to January 5th, only males of high social rank successfully court females and take part in reproduction. After 24 weeks of gestation, in June, females give birth to the newborns that, shortly-after the birth, are able to follow the mothers, also in the most impervious areas.

We can exclude any interaction with deers and roe deers and also any competition with the chamoix. There aren’t incompatibilities among those species, even if they live in the same habitat: that’s because they have partially different needs. Negative interactions happen in areas with high-altitude valley floor (over 1700m) or with restrict alpine meadows.  This is not the case of the Adamello Brenta Natural Park.

The ancestors of the alpine ibex are ancient forms of wild goats that, 14-17 thousand years ago, populated regions of West and Centre of Asia. During the last ice ages, (from 700thousand to 12thousand years ago), ibexes were widespread in Europe. Then, with the retreat of glaciers, this species remained isolated in some areas of big alpine massifs.
For more than 10thousand years, the history of ibex has been intertwined with that of ancient inhabitants of Alps. But men had not been friendly, hunting this animal for its meat and for some supposed therapeutic properties. For these reasons, ibexes disappeared from alpine regions starting from 16 Century. In 1821, just a herd of approximatively hundred animals was surviving in the most impervious valleys of Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta.
Firstly protected by Savoy Royal Family and later by the institution of Gran Paradiso National Park and object of reintroduction projects, the ibex is returning to its ancient original alpine habitat.