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To ensure you respect them and don’t disturb them too much in the places where they live, it’s important to learn to recognise the various mountain animals.
Here are our tips for learning how to tell a chamois from an ibex.
Let's get started with a difference that some will find obvious, but mistakes are often made, especially when it comes to identifying them from afar!
Chamois and ibex do have a few characteristics that help you tell them apart and that are quite easy to recognise from a distance:
The chamois is generally less thickset than the ibex.
Its fur coat is also often darker than its cousin and the white patch on its hindquarters is quite marked.
Ibex also have this patch, but it’s less developed and their tail partly hides it.
If you’re close enough to be able to make out the animals’ horns, you may notice a major difference in size.
Those of ibex are thick and can reach over 60 cm for a five-year-old adult.
In the chamois, the horns are much thinner and a lot more curved.
They are also a much darker colour.
The nodules of the horns of an ibex don’t allow its age to be calculated (contrary to popular belief).
In chamois, you can determine whether it’s a male or a female.
Indeed, an open angle at the end of the horns means it’s a female, while if it’s closed at more than 45°, then it’s a male.
The horns of males are also thicker at the base than those of females.
In the ibex, it’s simpler: the females (called etagnes) have shorter horns (about 20-30cm), thinner and with no bulges.
Where chamois and ibex are most easily told apart from a distance is in their behaviour.
It’s quite rare to be able to observe chamois up close.
They don’t really tolerate the presence of humans, let alone when they’re surprised in their natural habitat at a bend in a path.
A chamois will feel safe once it's a few hundred yards from you.
The ibex, on the other hand, can be approached relatively easily, is rarely timid, and it may even be that those most used to human presence will block your way on a steep path!
With both the chamois and the ibex, you must above all not stray from the path to try to approach them.
If they're close to the path and within "photo" range, you're in luck!
If they're farther away, don't try to get any closer as they’re much more skilful and sure-footed in rough terrain than we are, and you could put yourself in danger.
Be especially vigilant with females with their young kids.
Although these animals aren’t known to respond aggressively if they feel threatened, it’s best to keep a good distance from the young.
If a young one seems to be on its own, leave it alone.
Its mother is most probably not far away, so there’s no need to try to rescue it.
Another safety tip if your path winds up steep slopes or scree.
These animals are very agile on any surface, but can unconsciously dislodge stones as they move around.
Stay alert when there are slopes above you!
So you now have all the information you need to properly recognise a chamois or an ibex. Enjoy watching them, but above all, respect their way
of life on our favourite summits!