Chamois

Chamois
Chamois are one of the most beautiful and graceful animals. It is no coincidence that they are present in the myths and legends of many peoples. They are herbivorous ungulate mammals inhabiting mountainous areas with the presence of rock complexes. In Bulgaria there is the Balkan chamois, which is a subspecies of the R. rupicapra and is  present only on the Balkan Peninsula. You will recognize it by the hollow horns curved like hooks, which are characteristic for both males and females. Their age can also be determined by the horns, because every year a ring is formed on them. Their attire is brownish, but in different shades, according to the seasons - in winter it is dark brown to black, and in summer - lighter brown. Wild goats also have very powerful, sprint-adapted legs for climbing the rocks. Their hooves have sharp tips, resembling pickles, with cushions that prevent slipping. They are endowed with a powerful heart, resistant to heavy loads. According to a current research there are about 2,500 chamois in Bulgaria, located in Natioanal parks Rila, Pirin and Central Balkans and also in the Western Rhodopes. A decade ago they were restored in Nature Park Vitosha too.

Protected status

Protected status
National legislation
 
The chamois is a protected species under the Biodiversity Act. In order to involve the local hunting communities in its protection, every year a special commission at the Ministry of Environment and Waters permits shooting of several trophy chamois on the territory of the Western Rhodopes. The species is included in the Red Book of the Republic of Bulgaria in the category "endangered".

International legislation
 
The Balkan chamois and its habitats are protected by the European Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43). It is also included in Annex III of the Berne Convention, ratified by Bulgaria on 01/25/1991, in force since 05/01/1991. 

Biology

Biology
Nutrition
 
The chamois changes its taste preferences according to the seasons. The most common foods in her menu during  spring and summer are grass species. During this period, it also eats coniferous species such as dwarf pine, spruce and fir, but to a much lesser extent. In winter, when the grass vegetation is covered with a thick snow cover, twigs buds and fringes of various tree and shrub species begin to predominate in its diet. For these species, food is very important and determines their habitat. The areas with preferred food during the different seasons are also the places where the herds stay the longest.

Reproduction and development
The mating season for chamois is usually in November and is determined by the decreasing day. The birth is after about six months in the spring.  For chamois, reaching sexual maturity depends not only on biology, but also on external factors such as available food, herd density and the behavior of other goats. Under favorable conditions, females can successfully give birth in their second year, and in worse - after their third year. For males, there is also a significant difference between sexual maturity and participation in reproduction. Although some males are able to have offspring in their second year, they begin to take an active part in marriage only after their fourth year - when they are strong enough to fight for females with their older and more experienced rivals. To determine their leadership, the males organize duels, which sometimes lead to clashes with horns and even to killed rivals. But more often the battles for supremacy end only with intimidation and chasing on the rocks, until the weaker or inexperienced goat gives up.
 
Shortly before giving birth, the females separate from the herd and give birth in a closed place surrounded by trees. The chamois is a very caring mother. She takes care of both her newborns and her older one- and two-years-old kids. To keep them better, the females organize something like kindergartens, in which several mothers take care of their youngs together. Usually chamois gives birth to one, rarely two kids, which, although perfectly adapted from birth and can move on their own, follow their mothers inextricably and obediently until they are old enough to survive on their own. 







Seasonal and day-and-night​ activity. Migrations
Chamois are active during the day. At night they rest or sleep in hidden and hard to reach places. There are evidences of full moon grazing, but they are extremely rare. Their activity also depends on the seasons. During the warm months they avoid the heat and therefore prefer to graze mainly in the early morning and evening, and for the rest of the time to rest in the shades. In winter or on days with fog and clouds, when they are more actively looking for the sun, they look for food all day and graze for a longer time.
Chamois migrate to different habitats in winter and summer. From July to November they spend more time in the alpine than in the wooded areas. From January to June they go down to the forest. Migrations also depend on their age. Usually, larger migrations are carried out by young.

Habitats

Habitats
Chamois lead a sedentary lifestyle and prefer well-known trails and areas. They leave their areas only when they are constantly in danger or when their food is decreasing for one reason or another. Most of the chamois habitats in Bulgaria are in Rila, Pirin and Central Balkan National Parks, as well as in the Natura 2000 network in the Western Rhodopes. A few years ago, the chamois was successfully restored in the Vitosha Nature Park, which is already inhabited by more than 30 animals. Apart from food, the main factor in choosing a habitat is the weather. For the cold months they prefer warm and sunny places, and for the hot - windy and shady. In winter, in an effort to avoid losing energy from severe cold from the wind, they are willing to choose quiet places, even when they have less food.

Threats and limiting factors

Threats and limiting factors
Predators
Predators are the natural enemies of the chamois. In Bulgaria these are: wolf, stray dogs, bear, wild cat, fox and Golden Eagle. But they are not a great threat to them and in practice the chamois has no natural enemies. Because there is no other animal that can compete with her agility and speed of movement on steep terrain or compete with the big jumps she makes over the mountain precipices. Chamois like to watch their enemies in the open, appearing on some inaccessible rock high above their heads. They even deliberately give them a signal  by pounding with their hooves. Very often this is enough for predators to give up the chase, because in the chase on the rocks the chamois is intangible.

Poaching
Unlike predators, one of the most significant reasons for the decline of the species and its endangerment is its brutal extinction by poachers in many places in our country. Poachers chase chamois for their meat and horns, which they turn into hunting trophies. Although chamois are endowed by nature with agility and speed, they are powerless before us, humans! Their curiosity and tendency to allow the enemy close to them and openly observe them makes them easy prey for hunters. And the open rocks, which protect them from predators, are an ideal place for hunting with a rifle with optics. Despite hunting bans in national parks, poaching exists. Therefore, if you see a poacher or stuffed chamois  as a hunting trophy in a restaurant or hotel, you can report to the relevant RIEW (Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water)









 




This subpage has been produced withing the project "BIO-INNOVATE". The Project is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and by national funds of the countries participating in INTERREG V-A “Greece-Bulgaria 2014-2020″ Cooperation Programme. The contents of the page are the sole responsibility of Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the participating countries, the Managing Autority and the Joint Secretatiat.