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Mountain Goat: Ibex Life, Habitat, Threats, and More

The Mountain Goat (Capra pyrenaica) is a common goat species in the Iberian Peninsula. This species is part of the genus Capra, like the domestic goat, and is particularly close to the wild Alpine goat (Capra ibex).

Mountain goat

The Iberian ibex, the Spanish ibex, the Spanish ibex, or the Iberian ibex (Capra pyrenaica) is a species of ibex with four subspecies. Of them, two are still in the Iberian Peninsula, but the remaining two are already extinct. The Portuguese subspecies became extinct in 1892 and the Pyrenean subspecies in 2000. An ongoing cloning project in the Pyrenean subspecies resulted in a clone being born alive in July 2003. This is the first taxon to become “non-extinct”, although the clone died a few minutes after being born due to physical defects in the lungs.

History

The original expansion area was the Pyrenees and various mountain ranges in Spain and Portugal. Today, however, it has been considerably reduced due to intensive hunting, which is why the entire species is potentially endangered. Four subspecies are distinguished, two of which are extinct. The Portuguese ibex (Capra pyrenaica lusitanica) was exterminated as early as 1890.

The Pyrenean Goat (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica) was exterminated in the 19th century on the French side of the Pyrenees; in the 1980s there were still 30 animals on the Spanish side; in the 1990s the number continued to decline; the last living specimen, a female, died on January 6, 2000, so the subspecies had disappeared. As the population was strictly protected and guarded, the reasons for its extinction are puzzling; it is suspected of being susceptible to infections caused by herds of cattle and goats.

Attempts to revive this subspecies through cloning have so far failed. In 2013, however, common Iberian ibex were resettled in the French Pyrenees, 40 each in the Pyrenees and Mont Valier National Park in Ariège.

The other two subtypes are insured to a certain extent: Capra pyrenaica hispanica from southeastern Spain has approximately 8000 specimens. The Capra pyrenaica victoriae from central Spain was exterminated in 1905 until twelve animals, however, were strictly protected and could reproduce again to a population of 3500 today. However, since this continuation is not yet really assured, the subspecies are considered to be in danger.

Lifestyle

Like other ibexes and hunting goats, this specimen lives in rocky or mountainous terrain. In the way of life and nutrition it depends on herbs, herbs, and leaves. The mating season takes place between November and January. At this time, the animals live in mixed groups of about ten animals, consisting of male goats and females. Starting in February, old friends leave these groups. In April, when pregnant females give birth to their young, adolescents also leave the groups. Larger mixed herds form in autumn. Breeding time lasts six months and ends in May with the birth of a young animal.

Where do the mountain goats live?

The ibex populates the Iberian Peninsula and was originally composed of four subspecies. However, with the recent extinctions that occurred in the last century, only two of the subspecies remain, Capra pyrenaica hispanica and Capra pyrenaica victoriae, which are found throughout the Spanish Iberian Peninsula and have even migrated and settled on the coast. From Portugal.

Characteristics

Wild goats are strong mountain animals characterized by their large hooves and short legs. These physical adaptations allow them to run and jump on bare, rocky, rough, and steep slopes, giving them an advantage over potential predators who cannot reach them due to the terrain. The Iberian ibex also shows a remarkable sexual dimorphism, the males being larger in size and weight and also with larger horns than the females.

The horns of ibex are different among wild goats in that they curve outwards, upwards and backward, inwards and, depending on the subspecies, upwards or downwards. The annual growth of the horns is mainly influenced by age, but it can also be due to environmental factors and the growth of the previous year. Although female goats are smaller, they have a faster ossification process and typically complete their full bone development almost two years earlier than males.

Mating

The Iberian ibex establishes two types of social groups: exclusively male groups and females with youth groups. It is during the mating season (between November and December) when the males interact with the females to reproduce. Assignment to testicular mass was higher in the mating season, particularly at ages that are associated with a state of subordination and a reproductive strategy of courtship, rather than protection of the couple.

Mixed groups are also common during the rest of the winter. During the calving season, the foals are separated from the female groups at the time of new births. Males are the first to separate and return to their male-only groups, while young females eventually return to their mothers and spend their next few years with the group.

What do mountain goats eat?

The Mountain Goat is generally a mixed feeder and depends on the availability of plants in its range. Thus, the percentage of each type of resource that is consumed will vary altitudinally, geographically, and seasonally. The ibex also has a special mechanism in the kidney that stores fat to be used for energy during cold winters. The highest body storage of kidney fat can be found during the productive hot seasons and the lowest during the cold period.

The storage of the body is characterized by the limitation of food resources and the search for food in mountain goats is also different according to the season of the year. When food resources are low during winter, goats reduce their movement rates when searching for food. However, during the spring season, when food is more available, they would increase their rate of movement and become more mobile in their search for food.

This would be the ideal trend of movement, as the spring season is more abundant in food resources, which means there is more competition for food resources, forcing some to walk further to get food.

Defense against predators

The Spanish ibex has a unique way of signaling to others when a potential predator has been detected. First, the ibex will have an upright posture with its ears and head pointed in the direction of the potential predator. The caller will signal the other ibex in the group with one or more alarm calls. Once the group has heard the alarms, they will flee to another area that is usually an advantageous point, such as a rocky slope where the predator cannot reach.

The ibex tends to flee in a very coordinated manner, led by an experienced adult female in groups of young females and an experienced male in groups of only adult males, possibly allowing the group to escape more efficiently, as the goat more experienced mountain will know which slope to run to. However, because their alarms consist of abrupt explosive hiss, they can be easily heard by predators and quickly located even from afar.

Preservation

Populations of this type of goat have declined significantly in recent centuries. This is likely due to a combination of contributing factors such as hunting pressure, agricultural development, and habitat degradation. Around 1890, one of its subspecies, Capra pyrenaica lusitanica, also known as Portuguese ibex, became extinct from its range in the Portuguese Serra do Gerês and in Galicia. By the mid-19th century, another of the four subspecies, the Pyrenean ibex, had lost most of its range. It finally became extinct in January 2000, when the last adult female died in Ordesa National Park.

There are also a number of threats to the future preservation of the Spanish ibex, such as population overabundance, disease, and possible competition with domestic cattle and other ungulates, along with the negative effects of human disturbance through tourism. and hunting. Recently, goats in southern Spain have been exposed to outbreaks of diseases such as sarcoptic mange. This disease, potentially fatal for infected specimens, affects males and females unequally and limits the reproductive investment of the specimens. Scabies has become the main destabilizing factor in many goat populations.

Threats and conservation

Of the four subspecies, two have disappeared. The Capra pyrenaica lusitanica disappeared during the 19th century and the Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica disappeared from the Pyrenees at the end of the 20th century, perhaps due to overexploitation of game, competition with other wild or domestic ungulates or also due to adverse climatic conditions or to the presence of parasites.

The last known ibex in the Pyrenees, a female, was found dead on January 6, 2000, its skull crushed by a falling tree. A limited number of ibex of this subspecies have survived in the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park (Spanish side of the Pyrenees), created in 1918 to safeguard them.

In 2002, the total population of the Iberian Peninsula was estimated at 50,000 specimens, which represents a strong increase since the early 1990s, when the population was estimated to be 7,900 specimens.

Reintroduction in the French Pyrenees

Since September 15, 2012, the mountain goat has been protected in France, where it disappeared in 1910, with a view to its reintroduction. Thus, from July 10 to October 10, 2014, 5 ibex releases from La Pedriza were carried out in the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park, near Madrid, in Cauterets, in the Pyrenees National Park, and in the Cirque de Cagateille, in Ustou, in the Ariège Pyrénées Regional Natural Park, with a total of 42 specimens, of which 19 are female. In 2018, its population reached almost 100 specimens.

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