It is still unclear whether or not Capra caucasica and Capra cylindricornis are two separate species (as followed here), or are a single species with geographically dependent variability.
|Body Length||male 150-165 cm, female 120-140 cm|
|Body Height||95-109 cm, 78-90 cm|
|Tail Length||10-14 cm|
|Weight||65-80 kg, 50-60 kg|
|Horn Length||66-74 cm|
|Horn Weight||1,8 kg each|
The summer coat of the west Caucasian tur varies from rusty grey to rufous-brown, while in winter the coat dulls to a grayish-brown, in older animals this may be much lighter. The underparts are generally the same color as the rest of the body in the summer coat, lightening to a yellowish-grey or dirty white in winter, especially in females. There is no distinct dark dorsal stripe as in some other ibex species. The chest is a dark reddish-brown. The moult of the winter coat begins in March and extends to mid-June. The guard hairs and underfur of the coat begin to grow longer during September and the full winter pelage is fully grown in by the end of October.
The body is massive with a relatively long, deep trunk; the legs are short but strong. The front surfaces of the legs are a deep brown color, becoming darker and more intense towards the hooves. Lydekker reports that a white spot may be present above each hoof. The short tail is covered with dark hairs.
The face of males tend to be darker and browner than the body, especially on the forehead. Dense, long, curly hair grows on the foreheads of males, especially in winter, and forms distinctive whorls. Another whorl often occurs on the nose. Males, and occasionally females, grow a beard of moderate length on the chin. In the summer, the beard is short and dark brown, becoming longer and fuller in winter.
Both sexes of Capra caucasica bear horns, although there is massive dimorphism between males and females. The horns of males are relatively short when compared to other ibex, but are the thickest of the genus Capra. They are bent like a scimitar in a single plane, and diverge in a wide "V" laterally from their base. The front surfaces of the horns are ridged strongly, but do not have the large knots of other ibex. In cross-section, the horns of males are in the form of rounded triangles. The horns grow to 66-74 cm long, exceptionally up to 81 cm. The width of the horns is clearly demonstrated by the basal circumference, which - at 29-32 cm - may be over 30% of the total horn length. The horns may weigh up to 1,8 kg each.
The horns of adult females are thin and relatively weak. Elliptical in cross-section, the horns curve slightly in a single plane and rarely exceed 30 cm in length and 10 cm in circumference at their base.
The habitat and ecology of western and eastern tur do not differ noticeably.
Western tur are more influenced by high precipitation and heavy snow cover. They mostly inhabit subalpine and alpine zones between 800 and 4,000 m asl. They rarely live in forests outside snowy season, probably because forest in the West Caucasus is composed predominantly of fir and spruce and forms closed stands.
Where pine are more abundant, Western tur stay more readily in forests. During the region's harsh winters, tur concentrate on sunny slopes, with 30 to 80% of the animals staying below timberline; during the summer, tur expand their distribution to slopes of different exposures.
Western tur coexist with chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), dominating the latter throughout the year. The proportions of kids in the populations are mutually negatively correlated in both species, but more markedly so in chamois.
The diet of Capra caucasica contains over a hundred recorded species of plants. Grasses, including sweet vernal grass, foxtail, mountain fescue, and meadow grass, are extremely important to tur, comprising 80-90% of raw stomach contents in the summer, and up to 70% in winter. Other herbaceous plants eaten include chamomile, cornflower, and dandelion, bennet, meadow sweet, and cinqufoil, buttercup, aconite, crowfoot, and anenome, as well as, figworts, buckwheat, and bluebell. West Caucasian tur will consume shoots and leaves of willow and birch during summer, and (in the Caucasian preserve) have been observed in forested regions foraging for mushrooms (Russula sp.).
During the winter, snow cover complicates foraging; in snow up to 35 cm deep, tur will scrape away the snow using their hooves to reach vegetation buried underneath, but in deep snow will only eat those parts of plants which protrude from the surface. Stalks, dessicated leaves, and grasses are commonly eaten, but the ever-green leaves of blackberry and ivy serve as a primary winter food source when available. As fresh vegetation is difficult to find, foraging from trees and shrubs plays a substantial role in winter feeding, with thin twigs, shoots, buds, and bark (of willow, birch, maple, hazelnut, and pine) being consumed. Tur may eat hanging lichens (Usnea barbata) and occasionally fir needles.
Salt licks are visited regularly throughout the year, typically in the evening; herds have been recorded travelling up to 10 km in order to reach mineral sources. Water is sought out regularly only in areas where precipitation is low and the grass dry.
The general behavior of Capra caucasica is very similar to that of Capra cylindricornis. Capra caucasica is most active between the late afternoon and early morning. Three to four hours before sunset, tur in protected areas will emerge from cover and move into the open to begin feeding. Grazing continues throughout the night, alternating with periods of rest, until between 08:00 and 10:00 in the morning, when herds return to shelter. In cloudy weather or on rainy days, tur may be seen foraging in the open throughout the day, while in areas of high human activity tur emerge to graze only after dusk, returning to cover at dawn.
West Caucasian tur inhabit a home range which varies in size from dozens of hectares to several square kilometers and which is somewhat dependent on season. A herd may travel up to 15 or 20 km per day between pastures and resting sites in summer, although if they are close, daily movements may not exceed 5 km. Daily "migrations" between feeding and resting areas are particularly distinct on southern slopes, which receive high amounts of solar exposure.
During the summer, these large-scale movements are driven mainly by the effects of temperature: open regions above the treeline can become intensely heated by the sun, causing the emergence of biting insects by 09:00. As the flies emerge, grazing tur retreat to shelter at a brisk pace of 6-12 km per hour, either descending into the forest or climbing to higher elevations where the mountains remain cloud-capped throughout the day. In cooler weather, on the other hand, tur spend considerably more time feeding before returning to their bedding areas, doing so at a leisurely 1 km per hour and grazing along the way. During the hottest part of the day, tur will shelter in the shade of cliffs or in forests, and will even lie in snow if available at higher altitudes. Site selection is driven by temperature; in forests, tur will choose ravines where a steady breeze blows, while in cooler temperatures of high altitudes they may lie out in the open.
Winter movements are much more restricted. Due to heavy snowfalls in the region, west Caucasian tur become confined to much smaller areas; their movement is noticeably hindered in snow over 40 cm deep, and they are thus more vulnerable to predators and exhaustion. Grazing and resting alternate more frequently, and herds may remain on open slopes for the full day, retiring only if there is a strong wind. During severe weather, tur will shelter in forests, caves, and under cliffs, although animals may remain on open slopes and allow themselves to be covered with snow.
Seasonal migrations between summer and winter ranges are well documented, and may cover vertical distances of 1,500 to 2,000 meters. In May, tur begin to move to higher altitudes, entering the alpine zone. As the snow continues to thaw in the mountains, herds move even higher due to the growth of fresh vegetation and the preponderance of biting insects at lower altitudes. The grazing of cattle in alpine regions also plays a significant role in when and where tur migrate. As snow begins to fall (as early as September), tur are forced out of higher altitudes, but they will re-ascend if it melts. By the end of October, most tur will have completed their final migration downwards; herds typically winter in the forests of the lower alpine zone (usually below 2,500 m above sea level). Their winter range is often characterized by steep slopes with little snow, typically with a southern exposure; wind-swept outcrops are sometimes used as pasture.
While on the move, tur often follow the same trails day after day, with the result that they become well-worn and even trough-like. Herds typically travel in single file, with one individual in front of the next. Not surprising for a mountain ungulate, tur can negotiate precipitous terrain with ease, and will rest on steep slopes by sitting on their hindquarters like a dog. West Caucasian tur have been observed wading into brooks and lakes.
This species is fleet over short distances, but is incapable of prolonged running at speed.
West Caucasian tur vocalize using sharp, intermittent whistling which sounds almost like a high-pitched sneeze.
For most of the year, adult male and female west Caucasian tur live separately, with mixed herds forming during the rut and remaining together for one to two months afterwards. Group size is typically several dozen individuals, although large herds of up to several hundred occasionally form. Such large groups quickly splinter again into smaller groups. The sex ratio usually favors females.
West Caucasian tur are seasonal breeders, and with the rut extending from November to early January. Gestation lasts for 150-160 days, with births occurring from mid to late May through June and sometimes into July. A single kid is the norm, although twins are known, and the weight at birth ranges from 3,500 to 4,200 grams. Females do not retreat to a sheltered locale prior to parturition, but instead give birth in accessible areas; the kid gains its footing within a few hours and is fleet-footed after only a day. Females will generally hang back from the herd for the first ten days after birth, with the kid following the mother closely.
Young will suckle until the end of the summer (i.e., 3-4 months), and on rare cases longer, but begin sampling solid foods (grasses) at one month of age. Kids account for 13% of the population one month after parturition, but early mortality is high and after a year the same cohort comprises only 5-9% of the population.
Females reach sexual maturity in their second year but at this age they are rarely sexually active, typically breeding for the first time during their third year. Although young males may become sexual mature at this time, they are not socially mature and ready to breed until four or five years of age. Captive females are capable of breeding every year, however, this rarely occurs in the wild and a large number of adult females remain barren in any given year. The life span of west Caucasian tur in the wild is not precisely known, but most adult animals die before the age of 10 or 12; on rare occasions, individuals may survive into their 15th or 16th year.
|Gestation Period||150-160 days|
|Young per Birth||1, rarely 2|
|Sexual Maturity||3 years|
|Life Span||10 or 12 years
Western tur are preyed upon by Wolf (Canis lupus) and Lynx (Lynx lynx), but snow avalanches cause most natural deaths. The Leopard (Panthera pardus), while formerly a major predator of Capra caucasica, is now very rare in the Caucasus.
The total population estimate in the late 1980's was ca. 12,000 animals, but in recent years numbers have been declining significantly.
In 2001, numbers were estimated at 6,000-10,000, but the latest available data indicate about 2,500 in the Caucasus Nature Reserve, up to 1,000 animals in Teberda Nature Reserve, with probably few animals outside it, and approximately 1,000 tur in Svaneti region in Georgia.
The total population was given at 5,000-6,000 animals (2004), and might now be lower.
Capra caucasica- Western Tur: Current distribution
Source: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Caucasus mountains in Georgia, Russia and Azerbaijan.
This species is endemic to the western part of the Great Caucasus Mountains in Georgia and Russia. Its range stretches in a narrow stripe from Tchugush Mountain massif to the Balkar Cherek River headwaters on the north slope and Inguri River headwaters on the south slope, just east of the Mount Elbrus massif.
The present length of the range hardly exceeds 250 km. The distribution reaches its maximal width near Mount. Elbrus - up to 70 km.
Thus, the range of the West Caucasian tur is the smallest one among all the genus Capra.
are the major threats to the western tur, combined with the impacts of severe winters.
Poaching is probably the most significant cause of the recently observed serious declines.
Livestock grazing results in competition for resources, especially with domestic sheep and goats.
The species is also impacted by habitat loss and degradation.
This species is listed in Karachai-Circassia Red Data Book (1988). This tur is protected in the Caucasus Nature Reserve (Russia), which has played a major part in its conservation. It also occurs in the Teberda Nature Reserve (Karachai-Circassia, Russia). It has been reported from Pskhu-Gumista and Ritsa Nature Reserves in Georgia, but recent surveys indicate that it is no longer present there.
Hunting under license is permitted in some areas. The most useful conservation measure at present would be to increase the level and effectiveness of protection in existing reserves, because organization of new ones seems improbable for the time being.
Listed as Endangered because of a serious population decline, estimated to be more than 50% over the last three generations (estimated at 21 years), inferred from an observed reduction in the number of mature individuals, especially due to over-harvesting.