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Chamois in Spain

Pyrenean chamois and Cantabrian chamois

  • The Chamois (or Southern chamois to be precise) is present in two mountainous areas in Spain: the Cordillera Cantábrica, where it is known as a rebeco ; and the Pyrenees, where it is known as a sarrio* The former is the officially accepted name in Castilian, though the two are generally accepted to be separate sun-species: The Cantabrian chamois or rebeco (ssp. R. r. parva ) is the smallest chamois in the world. Its coat is reddish in the summer and tending to light grey in the winter, with a browny-red tail. The larger more robust Pyrenean chamois or sarrio (ssp. R. r. pyrenaica ) sports heftier horns. Its hide is yellowish in the summer and darker in winter, with a buff-coloured throat and a black tail. It is slightly smaller than its Alpine cousin.

Map of distribution of the two distinct chamois populations in Spain. From GEO

  • The chamois is relatively common across its two mountain ranges with densities of between 6 and 21 individuals/km2 where present, and is particularly abundant in the Picos de Europa and the Reserva de Redes, and in Ordesa and Monte Perdido. The species is pushed up into steeper more craggy areas by the presence of domestic cattle, though in winter will descend to and just below the treeline. Cause of natural deaths include falling off crags (!), avalanches and rockslides, winter starvation, xxxxitis, and in the Cordillera Cantábrica, wolves. Foxes and golden eagles may have a residual impact. The recent reappearance of the wolf in the chamois-stronghold of the Sierra de Cadí in the Catalan Pre-Pyrenees may soon add a new cause of mortality for Pyrenean populations (see Return of the Wolf). The chamois is an important hunting trophy for those who like their animals nailed to their living room walls. A license to bag a prize male chamois can fetch as much as xxxx, with the slender horns of a Cantabrian rebeco the more highly prized of the two sub-species. In 1988, there were an estimated 16,000 chamois in Cantabrian region between the Reservas de Saja and Muniellos, and in a further 35,000 (in 1994) in the Pyrenees between the Sierra de Cadí and Larra in the Valle de Roncal.

  • Chamois numbers have been decimated by as much as 90% by mange and hunting has been severly restricted since 2005

*Note the similarity of sarrio to the Basque sarre , and rebeco to the Galician rebezo. Gamuza is an alternative name in Castilian.

The chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) is a large, goat-like animal that lives in the European Alps and Carpathian Mountains. It is one of only two species of the genus Rupicapra, the other being the Pyrenean Chamois, Rupicapra pyrenaica. It is in the Caprinae subfamily of bovids, along with goats and sheep.

As a mountain dweller, the chamois is excellently adapted to living in rugged, rocky terrain. Its climbing abilities are only surpassed by the Alpine Ibex. A fully grown chamois reaches a height of about 75 cm and weighs about 50 kg. Both males and females have short horns which are slightly curled backwards. In summer, the chamois' fur has a rich brown color which turns to a light grey in winter. Distinct characteristics are a white face with pronounced black stripes below the eyes, a white backside and a black dorsal strip. Chamois can reach an age of up to 20 years.

Female chamois and their kids live in herds; grown-up males tend to live solitary for most of the year. During rut season (late November/early December), males seek out female herds and engage in fierce fights with each other. After a gestation period of 20 weeks, a single kid is born. The kid is fully grown at an age of three years. It is rumored that in farming areas, male chamois will occasionally mate with goats and produce sterile hybrids, but no such event has ever been scientifically recorded. From Wikipedia here


See also wildlife in Spain - Wolf watching in the Sierra de la Culebra - Spanish Bear News - Iberian Lynx News - Iberian Lynx - Badgers in Spain - Wolves in Spain -Wolves, boars and capercaillie - Deer in Spain - Barbary apes in Gibraltar - European and American mink - Coypu in Spain - Pyrenean mountain goat - English-Spanish-Latin mammal checklist for Spain - Comparative table of Castilian and Catalan dictionaries on zoology -- Bats in Spain - Chamois in Spain - European and American mink - Acorns and rats in Castile Mammals in Spain -Wild Cats in Spain

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