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Brief Summary

Comprehensive Description

    Chamois
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    For other uses, see Chamois (disambiguation).

    The chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) is a species of goat-antelope native to mountains in Europe, including the European Alps, the Pyrenees, the Carpathians, the Tatra Mountains, the Balkans, parts of Turkey, the Caucasus, and the Apennines.[2] The chamois has also been introduced to the South Island of New Zealand. Some subspecies of chamois are strictly protected in the EU under the European Habitats Directive.[3]

    Names

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    Chamois herd engraved on reindeer antler from Gourdan grotto, Haute Garonne.

    The English name comes from French chamois. The latter is derived from Gaulish camox (attested in Latin, 5th century), itself perhaps borrowing from some Alpine language (Raetic, Ligurian). The Gaulish form also underlies German Gemse, Gams, Gämse, Italian Camoscio, Ladin Ciamorz.

    The usual pronunciation for the animal is UK: /ˈʃæmwɑː/ or US: /ʃæmˈwɑː/, approximating the French pronunciation [ʃaˈmwa]. However, when referring to chamois leather, and in New Zealand often for the animal itself, it is /ˈʃæmi/, and sometimes spelt "shammy" or "chamy". The plural of "chamois" is spelled the same as the singular, and it may be pronounced with the final "s" sounded. However, as with many other quarry species, the plural for the animal is often pronounced the same as the singular.

    The Dutch name for the chamois is gems, and the male is called a gemsbok. In Afrikaans, the name "gemsbok" came to refer to a species of Subsaharan antelope of the genus Oryx, and this meaning of "gemsbok" has been adopted into English.

    Taxonomy

    The chamois (along with sheep and goats) are in the goat-antelope subfamily (Caprinae) of the family Bovidae.

    There are two species of chamois in the genus Rupicapra:

    The species R. rupicapra is categorized into several subspecies:

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    Abruzzo chamois (R. p. ornata) on the Gran Sasso mountain

    The species R. pyrenaica is categorized into three subspecies:

    Description

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    Rupicapra rupicapra tatrica in the Tatra Mountains

    The chamois is a very small bovid. A fully grown chamois reaches a height of 70–80 cm (28–31 in) and measures 107–137 cm (42–54 in) (the tail is not generally visible except when mating).[6] Males, which weigh 30–60 kg (66–132 lb), are slightly larger than females, which weigh 25–45 kg (55–99 lb).[6] Both males and females have short, straightish horns which are hooked backwards near the tip, the horn of the male being thicker. In summer, the fur has a rich brown colour which turns to a light grey in winter. Distinct characteristics are white contrasting marks on the sides of the head with pronounced black stripes below the eyes, a white rump and a black stripe along the back.

    Biology and behaviour

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    Footprint at Rila National Park, Bulgaria, 2014

    Female chamois and their young live in herds of up to 15 to 30 individuals; adult males tend to live solitarily for most of the year. During the rut (late November/early December in Europe, May in New Zealand), males engage in fierce battles for the attention of unmated females. An impregnated female undergoes a gestation period of 170 days, after which a single kid is usually born in May or early June - on rare occasions, twins may be born.[6] If a mother is killed, other females in the herd may try to raise the young.[7] The kid is weaned at six months of age and is fully grown by one year of age. However, the kids do not reach sexual maturity until they are three to four years old, although some females may mate at as early two years old.[6] At sexual maturity, young males are forced out of their mother's herds by dominant males (who sometimes kill them), and then wander somewhat nomadically until they can establish themselves as mature breeding specimens at eight to nine years of age.[7]

    Chamois eat various types of vegetation, including highland grasses and herbs during the summer and conifers, barks and needles from trees in winter. Primarily diurnal in activity, they often rest around mid-day and may actively forage during moonlit nights.[6]

    Chamois can reach an age of 22 years in captivity, although the maximum recorded in the wild is from 15 to 17 years of age. Common causes of mortality can include avalanches, epidemics and predation. At present, humans are the main predator of Chamois. In the past, the principal predators were Eurasian lynxes, Persian leopards and gray wolves; with some predation possibly by brown bears and golden eagles.[6] Chamois usually use speed and stealthy evasion to escape predators and can run at 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph) and can jump 2 m (6.6 ft) vertically into the air or over a distance of 6 m (20 ft).[7]

    Distribution and habitat

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    Rupicapra rupicapra carpatica in the Retezat Mountains
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    Holocene distribution (grey) and recent range (red) of the Chamois

    Chamois are naturally distributed in the Pyrenees, the mountains of south and central Europe, Turkey, and the Caucasus in Asia. This particular species is called Rupicapra. They live at moderately high altitudes and are adapted to living in precipitous, rugged, rocky terrain. They can be found at elevations up to at least 3,600 m (11,800 ft). In Europe, Chamois spend their summers above the tree line in meadows. When winter rolls around, they go to lower elevations, of around 800 m (2,600 ft), to live in forests, mainly in areas dominated by pines.

    Chamois in New Zealand

    Alpine chamois arrived in New Zealand in 1907 as a gift from the Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph I in exchange for specimens of living ferns, rare birds and lizards. Mr Albert E.L. Bertling, formerly head keeper of the Zoological Society's Gardens, Regents Park, London, accepted an invitation from the New Zealand Government to deliver a consignment of chamois (two bucks and six does) to the colony. They arrived in Wellington, New Zealand, on the 23rd January, 1907, on board the "SS Turakina". From Wellington the chamois were transhipped to the "Manaroa" and conveyed to Lyttelton, then by rail to Fairlie in South Canterbury and a four-day horse trek to Mount Cook. The first surviving releases were made in the Aoraki/Mount Cook region and these animals gradually spread over much of the South Island.[8][9]

    In New Zealand, chamois hunting is unrestricted and even encouraged by the Department of Conservation to limit the animal's impact on New Zealand's native alpine flora.[9][10]

    New Zealand chamois tend to weigh about 20% less than European individuals of the same age, suggesting that food supplies may be limited.[11]

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    Chamois on the Piz Beverin mountain, Switzerland

    Hunting and wildlife management

    As their meat is considered tasty, chamois are popular game animals. Chamois have two traits that are exploited by hunters: the first is that they are most active in the morning and evening when they feed; the second is that they tend to look for danger originating from below, which means that a hunter stalking chamois from above is less likely to be observed and more likely to be successful.[12]

    The tuft of hair from the back of the neck, the gamsbart (chamois "beard"), is traditionally worn as a decoration on hats throughout the alpine countries.

    Chamois leather

    Main article: Chamois leather
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    Chamois leather

    Chamois leather, traditionally made from the hide of the chamois, is very smooth and absorbent and is favoured in cleaning, buffing, and polishing because it produces no scratching. Modern chamois leather may be made from chamois hides, but hides of deer or domestic goats or sheep are commonly used.

    A fabric known as chamois is made variously from cotton flannel, PVA, Viscos, and other materials with similar qualities. It is napped to produce a plush surface similar to moleskin or chamois leather.

    See also

    References

    1. ^ Aulagnier, S.; Giannatos, G. & Herrero, J. (2008). "Rupicapra rupicapra". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2008: e.T39255A10179647. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T39255A10179647.en. Retrieved 11 January 2018..mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:"""""'"'"}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/Lock-green.svg/9px-Lock-green.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-gray-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-red-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em} Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
    2. ^ "Il Camoscio d'Abruzzo". www.camosciodabruzzo.it.
    3. ^ "EUR-Lex - 31992L0043 - EN". eur-lex.europa.eu.
    4. ^ a b "Mineral Supply and Fertility of Chamois" (PDF).
    5. ^ Current status of the Balkan chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica) in Greece : Implications for conservation at Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences Archived April 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
    6. ^ a b c d e f Macdonald, D.W.; Barrett, P. (1993). Mammals of Europe. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09160-9.
    7. ^ a b c Dan Gunderson. "ADW: Rupicapra rupicapra: INFORMATION". Animal Diversity Web.
    8. ^ "A Note on the Chamois in New Zealand at New Zealand Ecological Society" (PDF).
    9. ^ a b "Recreational hunting in Nelson/Marlborough - Chamois at the Department of Conservation" (PDF).
    10. ^ "Heritage Preservation (p. 40 and 45) at the Department of Conservation" (PDF).
    11. ^ "Trophy Chamois Buck Hunting New Zealand Free Range Safari Park Record Horns".
    12. ^ "Beginners Chamois Hunting Guide".

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    Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
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    Maximum longevity: 17.6 years (captivity) Observations: Males are only fully mature at 8-9 years. Potential longevity has been estimated at 22 years (Ronald Nowak 1999), which is possible. Record longevity in captivity, however, is 17.6 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Distribution

    Distribution
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    The range of Rupricapra rupicapra, or chamois, includes the Pyrenees, the mountains of south and central Europe, Turkey, and the Caucasus in Asia. It has been introduced on the South Island of New Zealand. (Huffman, 1999; Nowak, 1999)

    Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); australian (Introduced )

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Morphology

    Morphology
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    Weight: 25 to 50 kg; Shoulder Height: 70 to 80 cm; Length 110 to135 cm. Chamois are a chestnut color but are lighter in the spring and summer. In the winter these animals grow long guard hairs over their dark brown under fur. Under parts are pale and the rump is white at the tail. A dark brown band runs from each side of the muzzle to the ears and eyes, and the rest of the head and throat is white. The horns of the male rise directly above the head then hook sharply back at the tips. The female also has horns, which although slimmer than the male's, can be longer. The female is smaller than the male. The hooves of the chamois are excellent for gripping slippery rock. (Nowak, 1999)

    Range mass: 30 to 50 kg.

    Range length: 110 to 135 cm.

    Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

    Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; sexes shaped differently; ornamentation

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Habitat

    Habitat
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    R. rupricapra lives in alpine and sub alpine meadows above the timberline. It winters in forested areas and steep slopes where snow does not accumulate. It is found in both relatively steep and flatter terrain. (Nowak, 1999)

    Habitat Regions: temperate

    Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; mountains

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Trophic Strategy

    Trophic Strategy
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    During the summer months the diet consists chiefly of herbs and flowers, but in winter the chamois eats lichens, mosses, and young pine shoots. It has been known to fast for two weeks and survive when the snow is so deep that food can not be found. (Nowak, 1999)

    Plant Foods: leaves; flowers; bryophytes; lichens

    Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

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Associations

    Associations
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    This species provides food for two interesting predators, the eurasian lynx and the wolf. As a grazer, it also affects the plant community within its habitat.

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    Associations
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Eurasian lynx and wolves are the main predator of the chamois. (Gortazar, 2000). They are also hunted by humans. When alarmed, these animals flee to inaccesible locations. They can travel at speeds of up to 50 km per hour. They can jump 2 meters into the air, and a distance of up to 6 meters. (Nowak, 1999)

    Known Predators:

    • Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx)
    • gray wolves (Canis lupus)
    • humans (Homo sapiens)
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Behavior

    Behavior
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    Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Life Cycle

    Life Cycle
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    See Reproduction.

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Life Expectancy

    Life Expectancy
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    The lifespan of the chamois ranges from 14-22 years. (Huffman, 1999)

    Range lifespan
    Status: wild:
    14 to 22 years.

    Average lifespan
    Status: wild:
    20.0 years.

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Reproduction

    Reproduction
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    Males are generally solitary except during the breeding season. They join herds during the late summer. Older males are known to force younger males from the herd, and sometimes have killed them (Nowak, 1999). It is likely that breeding is polygynous.

    Mating System: polygynous

    After a gestation period of 170 days, kids are born in May and June in a shelter of grass and lichens. There is usually only one kid born to a female, but twins and triplets sometimes occur. Young weigh 2 o 3kg each and are weaned after 2 to 3 months. The precocial kids are able to follow their mother almost immediately after they are born and they rapidly improve their leaping ability within the first few days of life. If a mother is killed, other chamois take care of the young. Young males stay with the mother's group until they are 2 to 3 years old and then live nomadically until they are fully mature at 8 to 9 years, when they become attached to a definite area. Sexual maturity is reached at the age of 2.5 years in females and 3.5 to 4 years in males. (Nowak, 1999; Huffman, 1999)

    Breeding season: Breeding occurs from October through December, with young born in May and June.

    Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.

    Range gestation period: 5.33 to 6.17 months.

    Range weaning age: 2 to 3 months.

    Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2.5 to 4 years.

    Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2.5 to 4 years.

    Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous

    Average birth mass: 2400 g.

    Average number of offspring: 1.

    Young are precocial and able to follow their mother shortly after birth. The mother produces milk for the young, and nurses them for 2-3 months. Should the mother be killed, other chamois will care for the young. (Nowak, 1999)

    Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; post-independence association with parents

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Conservation Status

    Conservation Status
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    In the Caucasus Mountains, Tatra Mountains that run along the border of Poland and Slovakia, and in Massif de la Chartreuse in South Eastern France, excessive hunting, loss of habitat, competition with livestock, and harassment by people and dogs have greatly reduced the number of chamois. Otherwise, chamois now are generally increasing in number and have been introduced and reintroduced in various parts of Europe. Population in Europe is about 400,000. (Nowak 1999)

    US Federal List: endangered

    CITES: no special status

    IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Benefits

    Benefits
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    Chamois compete with domestic sheep for grazing. (Gortazar, 2000)

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    Benefits
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    The meat of chamois is considered a prized food by some people. The skin is made into chamois (pronounces "shammy") leather for cleaning glass and polishing automobiles. The winter hair from the back is used to make the "gamsbart," the brush of Tyrelean hats. Chamois also bring increased tourism through hunting. (Nowak, 1999, Gortazar 2000)

    Positive Impacts: food ; ecotourism

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Education

    One Species at a Time Podcast
    provided by EOL authors
    Growing up in a village in the foothills of the French Alps, Francis Roucher used to hunt the chamois, a cross between a goat and an antelope. But on the day one of his shots went astray, Roucher was transformed from hunter to game manager, working to reverse the chamois’ decline.

    Listen to the podcast on the EOL Learning + Education website where you can also meet the featured scientist and find intriguing extras.

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