This mountain antelope is known as chamois in English and in French, in the Alpes. In the Pyrénées it's called Isard, although there is little difference between the two. On the Spanish side of the Pyrénées it's called rebeco, sarrio, or isard.
The Latin name comes from rupis = cliff; capra = goat.
103-134 cm high
Chamois are diurnal, but they feed at night if there is enough moonlight, and they rest in the middle of the day. We've often seen them early- and mid-morning while hiking through forested areas on steep slopes; on trails traversing the slopes, we keep a watch above and below the trail.
There's a story about Chamois in Beyond's page for the Mercantour National Park, where chamois are often seen.
Lives in mountain pastures and rocky areas of the Alps above the tree line, to 3500 m. In the winter they descend down as low as 800 m, into the forests or to open slopes cleaned of snow by the wind.
While we've seen chamois mostly in wooded areas, on steep slopes and occasional plateaux, this one (photo, left) was wandering across a near-vertical rocky cliff.
Stalking the Chamois
A favorite hiking area of ours is the Boréon area and the Col the Salese, in the Mercantour just north of Saint Martin-Vésubie. While on a hike from the Col the Salese to the isolated little mountain lake of Lac Tavels we came across the chamois in our first photo, above.
Walking across an open, sunlit field we saw the chamois coming slowly out of the trees towards us. We froze immediately and were lucky enough to not be notices. When the chamois dropped its head to feed, we sank down slowly, then lay prone, just another boulder in the field. We propped up the camera and started shooting while the chamois wandered and grazed, trying to ignore scratchy dry throat, blazing sun and bothersome flies. The results included some of the photos linked to this page.
When the chamois disappeared back into the trees we got up and stalked it. After some searching, we found it again further into the woods. we crawled, then slowly stood up beside a pair of 2-meter high trees, standing as just another tree. And then a second chamois arrived. We photographed them both for several minutes, but they were mostly in the shadows and fairly far for our medium-telephoto camera. A nice moment was when the second chamois began scratching the side of his face against a stiff little tree (our photo, left).