The shy chamois are a captivating feature of the Swiss Alps, but they’re becoming scarce in some areas and winter sports are partly to blame. (SRF/RTR/Julie Hunt, swissinfo.ch)
The Federal Office of the Environment says populations of the agile goat-antelopes have decreased by up to a half in certain regions, and it’s feared that many young ones could perish if the coming winter is harsh.
Wildlife officials are trying to pinpoint the main causes of the decline, so that they can take positive action.
Among the suspected causes are over-hunting, disease, attacks by predators like the lynx, competition for food sources, and disturbances to their habitat by snow shoe walkers and off piste skiers.
The nimble creatures may seem robust, but their populations are slow to replenish, as females reach reproductive maturity when they are three to four years old, and produce only one kid per year.
European chamois spend their summers in meadows above the tree line.
In winter they descend to around 800m (2,600ft), and live mainly in pine forests.