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The Alpine Ibex


The alpine ibex, also known as the steinbock or bouquetin, tend to live in steep, rough terrain near the snow line. 

The ibex became extinct in Switzerland and Germany by the 18th century due to hunting, and were extinct in Austria and northeastern Italy by the 19th century. They remained only in and around the adjacent Gran Paradiso and Vanoise Massifs. They went through a population bottleneck of less than 100 individuals, but through poaching protection and conservation they were reintroduced and numbers have since recovered and they are no longer a threatened species. Unfortunately, this has led to very low genetic diversity across populations.

A linear dominance hierarchy exists among males, and rank is based on horn size.

Males spend the winter in coniferous forests. For most of the year, males and females occupy different habitats. Females rely on steep terrain more than males. Males use lowland meadows during the spring, which is when snow melts and green grass appears. They then climb to alpine meadows during the summer. When winter arrives, both sexes move to steep, rocky slopes that amass little snow. They prefer slopes of 30–45° and use small caves and overhangs for shelter.

They are strictly herbivorous and half of their diet consists of grasses, with the remainder being a mixture of mosses, flowers, leaves, and twigs. They have little to no predators and typically die of age, starvation, or disease.

DNA analysis of the stomach contents of the Alpine iceman known as "Ötzi" confirmed that his last meal included ibex meat.