ingle Alpine Ibex, Swiss Alps, Switzerland | Einzelner Alpen-Steinbock, Pontresina, Graubuenden, Schweiz
April 25, 2018

Searching for the Alpine Ibex..

While hiking the beautiful Engadine Valley mountain landscape its not that easy to spot local Swiss wildlife, apart from the occasional warning whistle of the alpine marmot. A highlight of every hiking trip to the Swiss Alps is the sighting of wild Alpine Ibex (Capra ibex), also known as the Steinbock a species of wild goat that lives in the mountains of the European Alps.

A great location for spotting the Ibex, is the high-altidute mountain region near the town of Pontresina, about 5 km from the famous ski resort St.Moritz at the Engadine Valley. Depending on the season they can be seen above (summer), or below the tree line (autumn, winter). I have seen and photographed a group of about 20-25 animals, that were quite relaxed and used to human contact. From my experience, a good chance to see them is in early summer when the air is still cool and the last snow is melting. The warmer it becomes the higher they will climb, and therefore the harder they will be found. I twice found them relaxing and sunbathing a few hundred meters away from the Segantini Hut at 2731 m, where the painter Giovanni Segantini died September 1899.

There are two different, quite steep routes that lead to the Segantini Hut. One starts from the Muottas Muragl mountain station from where you can enjoy a spectacular view almost all the way along the Engadine Valley. Muottas Muragl can be reached by funicular from Punt Muragl just south of Pontresina. From the view point, the route is marked and can be reached in about 2-2.5 hours. Alternatively, take the chairlift from Pontresina to Alp Languard and approach the Segantini Hut from the opposite side. About 200-300m before reaching the hut, follow one of the small pathways on the right to higher terrain and a plateau about 50m above the hut where they sometimes rest. Alpine Ibex are not easy to spot due to their brownish grey hair. Sometimes its easier to wait, look around carefully and see if there is any movement on the mountainside.

Please be careful not to disturb the animals, move slow and quietly, and respect their escape distance. Since those Ibex are used to humans, they are quite relaxed unless you come too close. Be aware that the group is scattered over a wide area. Male Ibex, easily recognizable by their long horns, are protecting the group by securing the boundaries around the females and the young ones. It can happen that a curious male Ibex is coming closer and even crosses your way, it happen to me..we were both surprised and a bit shocked (the Ibex and me :)   Stay calm and slowly move backwards, from my experience, they won’t attack unless provoked.

For taking nice pictures a telephoto lens of about 200-300mm will be sufficient, unless you want to shoot very close up. For the images in my gallery I used my 70-200mm lens on Nikon D200 and D800 bodies.

Have fun and good luck for your search!