Behavior

Caprinae mainly occur singly or in small- to medium-sized groups. Larger groups may form at the rut, at feeding grounds in winter, or occasionally at other times. Herds of up to 500 east Caucasian tur, 400 bharal, 300 takin, and 300 chamois have been reported, but these numbers are not typical. Musk ox, wild goat, and Nilgiri tahr all have a maximum group size of around 100. Serow are mainly solitary. Adult females, young and subadult, or young males often form groups, with adult males remaining separate, either solitary or in small groups, and joining the others for the rut. However, social systems in most species are not clear-cut, and mixed groups, nursery groups, and solitary males may all be seen at the same time of year, as, for example, in the case of the blue sheep.

Senses of sight and hearing are well developed. Alarm calls consist of a variety of sneezes, snorts, whistles, and hisses. Many species also stamp their feet in alarm. Most species are excellent climbers and adept at moving over precipitous terrain, seeking refuge from predators on cliffs. Argali and urial depend on speed for escape. When threatened by predators such as wolves, musk ox form a tight circle with heads lowered and young animals inside the ring.

Home range size varies greatly with species and habitat. Summer and winter ranges are commonly used. Bighorn sheep may use up to five home ranges annually. The maximum distance traversed by bighorns between winter and summer ranges is about 30 mi (48 km). In desert species, the location of water sources is an important influence on use of home ranges. Introduced aoudad in Texas had home ranges of 7.44 mi2 (19.25 km2) in summer and 1.02 mi2 (2.64 km2) in winter. Serow have been known to make well-marked tracks through their forest ranges. Japanese serow of both sexes mark the boundaries of their range with scent from preorbital glands. Arabian tahr mark their range with scrapes in the ground made by the forefeet and renewed regularly.

A common activity pattern is basically crepuscular, with feeding taking place mainly in the early morning and late afternoon or evening. The day is spent resting in shelter on or near cliffs, in caves, or in dense scrub. Ibex, urial, and blue sheep bed for the night in groups at the top of scree slopes, scraping out a smooth sleeping place and with adult animals facing in both directions to watch for danger.

Most species living in high mountains undertake altitudi-nal movements to lower elevations in winter to avoid cold temperatures or deep snow and return to higher altitudes in spring. The extent of these movements may be as much as 6,560 ft (2,000 m). Musk ox, in contrast, move to more exposed slopes in winter where winds prevent the buildup of snow.

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