The chamois is the only animal that has never become extinct or been exterminated in the National Park.
The need to protect the chamois was one of the main arguments for the creation of the Park. Since 1920 the chamois population has, without being hunted, fluctuated between 1000 and 1700 animals. Why their numbers have not considerably increased is the subject of scientific research.
With a little patience, chamois can be observed throughout the National Park. The best observation sites are Murtaröl, Val Cluozza and Margunet.
From time to time chamois-blindness becomes rampant. The eyes of animals affected become clouded, and may eventually become totally blind. This disease is caused by a virus and can also affect sheep and ibex.
Female chamois live with their young, in herds, throughout the year.
It is not easy to differentiate between male and female chamois, as they both carry similar horns. The horns of the female are more slender and not so curved as those of the male. Chamois horns are, as their name suggests, made of horn, rather like our finger nails. They grow continually and are not shed.
The hooves of the chamois greatly contribute to its agility whe moving around in rocky terrain. Hard on the edges, but smooth like leather in the centre, they afford a good grip. Early mountain shoes were similarly made.
Male chamois are solitary and remain in the same territory all year round.
The habitat of the chamois is not only mountainous. They are also found in mountain forests, where there is plentiful food and shelter. Chamois that live in the forests often have a layer of resin on their horns.
During their first summer, the young chamois have to learn how to survive in the rocky mountainous terrain.
Born in June, from within a few hours of birth chamois kids follow their mothers everywhere. From time to time, when fleeing, they lose contact with the group and their plaintive cries can be heard from afar.
During the yearly rutting season, in November, brutal combats take place.
Male chamois pursue each other intensively. With their sharply pointed horns, fights to assert superiority can, very occasionally, lead to the death of one or both of the combatants.
As well as sight and sound, smell also plays an important role in communication between chamois. By rubbing its horns on branches and twigs the male deposits a musk-smelling secretion from glands situated behind the horns, in particular during the rutting season. This smell permits individual recognition by other males.
The chamois is particularly well adapted to its habitat.
Chamois inhabit cliffs, forests and pastures. When in danger, they withdraw to cliffs, across rocky slopes, or among reclining mountain pines.
Detection of an unknown scent is far more likely to cause a chamois to flee than the sighting of something unusual.
Chamois remain in the upper regions during the winter too, where they find food on snow-free crests or, like this chamois, by scratching in the snow.