Thursday, May 3, 2012

West Caucasian Tur

Capra caucasica
The West Caucasian Tur might look very familiar to you, cause it definitely did to me! At first glance I thought it was an Ibex, and that guess wasn't too far off. Turs and Ibxes belong to the exact same genus, and there is even quite a bit of taxonomic uncertainty floating around about how genetically distinct all the Turs and Ibexes actually are.

As the name suggests, these Turs can be found on the western side of the Caucasus Mountains, and they occur primarily within Russia. They are alpine dwellers, and inhabit areas 2,600-13,000ft above sea level (800-4,000m). Males tend to live at higher altitudes than the females, possibly because those areas are harder to navigate with young calves.

West Caucasian Turs feed on over 100 different species of plant. They primarily graze during the summer and browse during the winter. This is because the snowfall can become quite dense, even at the lower altitudes that they travel to during that season, and digging for vegetation can be difficult, even with their strong legs.

Breeding season takes place during those winter months, and kids are born in late spring/early summer. While some ungulates go off and give birth in secluded, inaccessible areas, Tur mothers have their kids right out in the open, and their offspring are able to climb along with the rest of the group by the end of the day!

It is estimated that there are less than 6,000 of these goat-antelopes left in the wild. Hunting, competition from livestock, and habitat loss have all led to their population decline. They do occur in protected areas, but poaching continues.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : Caucasus Mountains
Size : Height around 39in (1m), Weight up to 140lbs (65kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Artiodactyla
Family : Bovidae -- Genus : Capra -- Species : C. caucasica

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