1902 Encyclopedia > The Alps > Animals of the Alps

The Alps
(Part 26)



(D) HUMANS, ANIMALS, PLANTS

(b) Animals in the Alps

Although no conspicuous species of quadruped or bird is known to be exclusively confined to the Alps, they have afforded an asylum to many animals that have become rare or extinct elsewhere. The great urus, the elk, and the wild swine have disappeared since the Roman period, and the beaver in more recent times; but the brown bear, the lynx, the wild cat, and the wolf still survive. Among Ruminants, the red deer, fallow deer, and roebuck, chiefly found in the lower forest refion, are common to other mountain districts. More characteristic of the Alps is the chamois, which is found elsewhere only in the Carpathians, Pyrenees, and the mountains of European Turkey, and is the sole representative of the antelopes in this part of the world. Much rarer is the ibex or bouquetin, which still lives in the higher Alpine region of the Graian Alps, and possibly also in some recesses of the Pennine chain, Unlike the chamois, which descends at nigh to find sustenance as low as the verge of the pine forest, this fine animal remains, at least in the summer, in the upper region, on the verge of the snow-fields, or on the rocks that rise amidst the glaciers. The massive horns of the male are often a yard or more in length, Closely allied species are found in the Oyrenees and other mountain ranges of the Iberian peninsula, and in the Caucasus, but the true ibex seems to be now confined to this small corner of the Alps. The few endemic species of Mammalia found in the Alps are chiefly small Rodentia and Insectivora, which alone can multiply rapidly in the midst of a large and increasing human population. The marmot, which is the most characteristic of the Rodentia, maintains its ground in the stony recesses of the Alpine region, and does not diminish in numbers as most other wild animals have done. The most singular of this group is the snow-vole (Arvicola nivalis), whose nearest ally is a native of East Siberia. Several forms (varieties of sub-species) are found in various parts of the Laps. They ascend through the Alpine region to the rocks of the glacial zone, at least as far as 12,000 feet above the sea; and, unlike other animals framed to endure severe cold, they continue in activity throughout the long winter. There is at least one species of shrew (Sorex alpinus) peculiar to the Alps, The Cheiroptera are represented by numerous forms, which, with one exception (Vesperugo maurus), are confined to this region; but the Alps form a limit to the distribution of many of this order; some species of middle Europe do not cross the main range, while several species of the Mediterranean region find their northern limit in the valleys on the southern side.





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