Excessive within the Alps, the place blizzards swirl and big vultures swoop, herds of nimble-footed ibex reside harsh, perilous lives. Watch them scale sheer cliffs, dig by snow for meals and even dodge assaults from golden eagles.
These animals are a species of goat unique to Europe’s Alps. I travelled to Chamonix, a mountainous area close to Mont Blanc after which walked up the Refuge de Varan within the La Fiz mountain vary and to a plateau beneath the 1700m peak, Tete a L’Ane.
To ensure a sighting and to remain protected in these wild mountains I took a guided tour with Daniel Rodrigues of Chamonix Guides https://www.chamonix-guides.com/fr
Male ibex are greatest recognized for his or her large curved horns. In winter they group in small herds simply above the snow line the place the solar lights up their darkish coats, turning them a golden bronze. As a youngster I spent hours drawing the mesmerising twists of their lengthy horns.
FEMALE IBEX AND KIDS
The females are nonetheless caring for final yr’s children and I discover a group scrambling over sheer cliffs. Ibex hooves have a tough outer case that enables them to dig into ledges within the rock and comfortable pads on the bottoms of their hooves that mould to the mountains floor like climbing footwear.
Though their our bodies seem thick and muscular from the aspect, ibex are literally fairly slender when considered head on. This helps preserve steadiness on the steep slopes.
Over winter, Ibex can gradual their coronary heart fee down by as much as 60%, that means they don’t have to eat as a lot meals to outlive. They eat twigs and branches however these grass makes up greater than 50% of those herbivores’ food plan and they also want all their vitality to dig below the snow to search out it.
Despite their intimidating horns, ibex really are fairly placid, though when the males combat amongst themselves the clashes could be brutal. The horns are additionally essential when keeping off predators like wolves, foxes and eagles.
GOLDEN EAGLE ATTACK
Incedibly I get to witness such an assault as a golden eagle swooped down, making an attempt to push the youthful ibex from the cliffs. It swooped time and again hoping to single out a weaker one. An ibex may feed this apex predator for a while.
FOX VS EAGLE
Decrease down the valley I spot one other golden eagle, a juvenile. lunging at a crimson fox. The fox holds its floor however as they spar the stress is apparent.
However among the many most unbelievable wildlife to be seen on these slopes are bearded vulture. With a formidable three metre wingspan, bearded vultures are Europe’s greatest birds. Till lately there have been no bearded vultures left within the Alps, however because of a reintroduction programme there at the moment are 300 bearded vultures and so to see one is actually particular.
On decrease slopes are chamois, a species of goat-antelope and a part of the Rupicaprin household. Chamois reside in blended herds, on inhospitable rocky slopes the place in wintertime they feed on the branches and buds of mountain ash ,willow and sycamore bushes. ALPINE WILDLIFE Most individuals go to Chamonix to ski, however for me, its all in regards to the wildlife right here. And it has been fascinating to get an perception into the cruel lifetime of the ibex and to additionally spot elusive bearded vultures, golden eagles and shy chamois.