- Capra rupicapra Linnaeus, 1758
Northern Chamois, Alpine Chamois, Balkan Chamois, Chamois
Be (III); EUHD (II)
Value of species
R. r. tatrica - Listed as Critically Endangered (CR) C2a(ii) - has a very small population of less than 200 individuals and there is a projected continuing decline due to the problem of potential interbreeding. [Listed in 2000 as CR C2b].
R. r. cartusiana - Listed as Vulnerable (VU) D1. Is confined to a single mountain, the population is probably <1,000 mature individuals and there is no continuing decline. If the population is found to be larger than this, the status might have to be changed to Near Threatened.
The subspecies balcanica is listed on Annexes II and IV of the EU Habitats and Species Directive, and subspecies tatrica is listed on Annexes II* and IV.
Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica Bolkay, 1925
Rupicapra rupicapra carpatica Couturier, 1938
Rupicapra rupicapra cartusiana Couturier, 1938
Rupicapra rupicapra rupicapra (Linnaeus, 1758)
Rupicapra rupicapra tatrica Blahout, 1972
The northern chamois is native to mountainous parts of central and southern Europe and Asia Minor, where it occurs as seven subspecies: balcanica, carpatica, cartusiana, rupicapra, tatrica, asiatica and caucasica(Shackleton 1997, Pedrotti and Lovari 1999). It occurs from 500 m to 3,100 m asl in the Alps (Spitzenberger 2002). It has been introduced to Argentina and New Zealand (not mapped).
The subspecies asiatica occurs widely in eastern and northeastern Turkey.
The subspecies balcanica inhabits most of the mountain regions of Albania, as well as Bulgaria's four main massifs. In Greece, it is currently restricted to 11 mountains, and comprising at least six distinct and widely scattered population groups from Mount Rodopi in the northeast and the Epirus mountains in the northwest, to Mount Giona in central Greece (Shackleton 1997).
The subspecies carpatica occurs in many populations throughout the Transylvania alps and the Carpathian mountains. There have been a number of successful re-introductions (Shackleton 1997).
The subspecies cartusiana is endemic to France, where it is restricted to a 350 km2 area of the Chartreuse limestone massif, centred around Grenoble, at the western edge of the French Alps.
The subspecies caucasica is restricted to the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. It occurs on both sides of the Greater Caucasus from just east of Pshada River near Gelendjik, southeast for about 900 km to Mount Babadag in Azerbaijan (Alekperov et al., 1976; Durov, 1977). Although still relatively continuously distributed, it becomes increasingly less numerous east of North Ossetia, particularly in Daghestan, and more occur on the southern slopes in Azerbaijan than on northern ones. However, its range in the Greater Caucasus is beginning to fragment all over. In the Caucasus Minor, populations are scattered and isolated, and are confined mainly to the Meskhet and Trialeti ridges in Georgia, which are the wetter parts of the Caucasus Minor.
The subspecies rupicapra is found in the Alps of Austria, Germany, and eastern France.
The subspecies tatrica occurs in the Tatra mountains of Poland and Slovakia. In Slovakia, it has also been introduced to the Low Tatras (Shackleton 1997).
The northern chamois is widespread and generally increasing. Excluding the Caucasus population, there are an estimated 440,000 individuals in Europe, and in some protected areas densities may exceed 20 individuals per hectare (Pedrotti and Lovari 1999, S. Lovari pers. comm. 2006). However, with the exception of the Alpine subspecies R. r. rupicapra, many subspecies are rare and/or declining:
R. r. asiatica: There is very little data on the status of this subspecies, but it is believed to have undergone substantial declines.
R. r. balcanica: The total population numbers some thousands of individuals. Numbers are believed to be declining in all subpopulations (Shackleton 1997).
R. r. carpatica: In 1990, the total population was estimated to be around 9,000 animals (Shackleton 1997). I. Coroui (pers. comm. 2006) confirmed that the population of this subspecies in Romania is increasing.
R. r. cartusiana: The population was estimated at 300 to 400 individuals in the 1970s, and 150 individuals in 1986-1987, but has since increased to c. 2,000 individuals (S. Lovari pers. comm. 2006).
R. r. caucasica: There is very little data on the status of this subspecies, but it is declining and has virtually disappeared outside protected areas. The total population was estimated in the early 1990s to be c. 15,000 chamois, with about half in the western half of the Greater Caucasus and only ca. 500 in the Caucasus Minor. Of total chamois, an estimated 5,000 occur in Georgia. Numbers of this chamois have decreased drastically over the last 20 years throughout their range, and are still declining. Over the last two to three years, the decline has accelerated and numbers are believed to have been reduced by as much as 50% (P. Weinberg, unpubl. data).
R. r. rupicapra: This subspecies comprises the bulk of the global northern chamois population, and is widespread and abundant in the Alps. The number of individuals culled per year in the Swiss Alps and Jura mountains has increased steadily from c.4,000 individuals in 1950 to c.17,000 individuals in 2000 (Loison et al. 2003).
R. r. tatrica: The population was estimated at 220 in 1999 (Jurdíková 2000), and had dropped below 200 by 2002 (S. Lovari pers. comm. 2006). Numbers have been declining steadily since the 1960s (Jurdíková 2000).
Alpine chamois inhabit steep, rocky areas in the mountains, utilizing a variety of habitats including alpine meadows, open rocky areas, mixed broadleaf woodland, and coniferous woodland (Pedrotti and Lovari 1999). This species occupies rocky areas and alpine meadows, and feeds on grasses, herbs, leaves of trees, buds, shoots, and fungi (Sägesser and Krapp 1986). Females gestate for 170 days, and usually have 1 offspring per pregnancy. Females are sexually mature at 2.5 years, while males mature 1-1.5 years later. They live 14-22 years. Females and young occur in flocks of 5-30 animals, while adult males remain solitary.