Chamois on vacation
The mountains in spring become full of life but when winter comes and snow covers everything, they seem empty. Let me share the story of my search for chamois at the end of last year.
Many birds have migrated to the south already by the end of summer; all the insects have disappeared (ie. hibernating or surviving in their offspring) and plants either strive to live under the white blanket or die. Mammals like deer and boars have moved to the foothills of the mountains where the ground is mostly free from snow and thus chances of finding food are higher. And, of course, wolves and foxes followed them, too. Bears, instead, will spend most of the winter sleeping in their hollows. But one animal is still missing on my list. I always wondered, where do the chamois go in winter?
As I left them at the beginning of December, the chamois were still above the timberline and still busy with their rut. After Christmas and many days of snow, they virtually disappeared. I would go along the trails where I usually saw them from spring to autumn only to find some old tracks. I ask around. The biologists of the Majella NP tell me to look for them on the steepest south-facing slopes in the valleys of the eastern side of the massif. These are huge, very long and deep canyons, which begin almost on the summit of Majella and end at just few hundreds metres above the sea level, where winter is just a temporary nuisance. What a perfect wintering ground for the chamois!
These animals can just follow the snow line and move lower or higher along cliffs and ridges as this advances or retreats. Some time they move so low, that they can be found among the mediterranean vegetation. It hasn’t been easy to find them on such a vast area, mostly because of the extremely rugged terrain and occasional avalanches.
But, being used to watch chamois feeding among the dwarf pine shrubs and the alpine flowers of the altitude plateaus and glacial valleys, I really had to witness (and photograph…) the unusual view of a chamois among evergreen Holm oaks and junipers!
All images and texts © 2009-2012 Bruno D'Amicis Photography
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