First adored, then exterminated, later reintroduced – the Alpine Ibex has a turbulent history. Val Languard, above Pontresina, is home to the largest colony of wild mountain goats in Switzerland, with around 1,800 animals. In the spring, the ibex even venture down to the village, where you can marvel at them first-hand. It was not always like this: the ibex was eradicated in Switzerland early on. Their lack of timidity and man's faith in the miraculous healing effects of ibex preparations were their undoing. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Italian King Vittorio Emanuele III managed to steal a few of the last animals and to smuggle them to Switzerland. All ibex now living in the Alps are descendants of these animals. The best observation sites can be found at the Church of Santa Maria, the protective dam Giandains, and along the Blais trail. We ask you to keep your distance, not to disturb the animals, and to respect the game and rest areas. Remember to discover Pontresina's Ibex Paradise.
Wild mountain goats in Pontresina in the Engadine
The ibex is a symbol of the Alps and Pontresina alike.
Rutting season and ibex horns
In terms of origins, the ibex belongs to the genus of goats. The rut is in November. At the end of their gestation period in June, the groups separate, and initially the goats live somewhat reclusively with their kids. The male group and the female groups are often located at very different spots on the mountain.
The horns of the males can grow over a metre long. They are constantly growing, the tip being the oldest section. The horns are used for fighting and display behaviour – but also to support their massive head. And of course for scratching when they shed their thick winter coat in spring.
Photographer Hansjörg Egger
Photographer Hansjörg Egger has followed the Grisons’ heraldic animal to the most unlikely places – and we are going to present a selection of some of his photos here. The images clearly show just what impressive creatures these goats are. Despite their body weight of up to 90 kilograms, they are very nimble, confident climbers. They often hide behind rocks, cliffs, and overhangs. And majestically perched on the highest rock you will find the leader of the group. It takes a lot of patience to track ibex. Or, in the words of Hans Jörg Egger: “Suddenly you have them in front of your lens. Of course, they have seen and observed you for a while already. Eventually, they trust you, and you feel as if you belong to the group. Incidentally, you get a similar feeling in the evening when you return home aboard the Rhaetian Railway train. By then you will smell like an ibex yourself – and can be sure to have a compartment all to yourself.”