Herbivores of Spiti valley

Ibex

Primarily a diurnal animal, the ibex takes rests many time in the day and is generally found in high areas with steep slopes where it’s difficult for snow to accumulate. Unlike most species of goats, in the ibex both sexes have horns but the horns are bigger on the males than the females. The ibex is found in the pin valley national park and also the kibber wildlife sanctuary at an altitude between 3500m to 6500m. The ibex prefers rocky terrain, meadows and crags and only on particularly hot days does it like to go under a shady area. Usually this animal feeds on grasses and herbs and the ibex unlike the blue sheep lives in smaller groups. But there can be occasions when the ibex does form a herd of around 30. The ibex can live up to 16 years, can weigh up to 130kgs and in India the estimated population is in excess of 7000. The coat colouration varies in the ibex’s range and both males and females have a dark beard beneath the chin.

Best time for sighting Though out the year. Sighting changes are great if you have 2 days of exploration.

Pika

The pika is a small mammal with short limbs and rounded ears, and no external tail. It is the smallest in the family of rabbits and hares and is also called the ‘whistling hare’ due to its high-pitched alarm call. They usually live on rocky mountain sides, where there are numerous crevices. These small animals are about 15 to 23 centimetres and like rabbits after eating they initially produce soft green feces, which they eat again to take in further nutrition. They feed on a wide variety of plant matter and are at their most active before the winter season and because Pikas do not hibernate, they spend time during the summer collecting and storing food they will eat over the winter. The fur on all species of the pika is long and soft and is generally greyish-brown in colour. Unlike hares the pikas are active during the day apart from when it is extremely hot.

Best time for sighting Throughout the year.

Blue sheep

Blue sheep have a bluish stint which makes hard to spot against the barren landscape of Spiti. The blue sheep are also called the bharal. The blue sheep is known for its ability to run on steep mountains which helps it to escape from the snow leopard and wolves. The animal has similarity with sheep and goat and is found in abundance in spiti valley because of strict anti poaching laws. The blue sheep is long and can weight from between 35 to 75kgs. The back of the legs are white, while the chest and fronts of the legs are black. These animals are active throughout the day and are the favourite prey of the snow leopard. In spiti they are found at an elevation between 3500 to 6500m and while horns are found in both sexes, in males, they grow upwards, then turn sideways and curve backwards. In females the horns are much shorter.

Best time for sighting Thoughout the year. Sighting chances are good in April, May and September and October.

Woolly Hare

The woolly hare is found at altitudes ranging from 2500 to 5400 m and have are able to survive in dry habitats, grasslands and steep mountains. One of the largest in its species, the base colour of the body is white, but the fur on the limbs is brownish-white. The woolly hare is diurnal and are active from dusk to dawn. It has a short bushy tail and an oval shaped head. Females are larger than males and it’s generally a solitary animal that spends the day in shallow depressions, in bushes and between rocks. The woolly hare has excellent eyesight and hearing capacity. This is a very shy animal but does allow you to get close to it.

Best time of sighting Throughout the year. Sighting chances are good in April, May and September and October.

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