Mountain goats are the largest mammals that live in higher altitude areas. Most people are not familiar with them because they live in remote places. However, it is a fact that mountain goats are naturally built to survive the harsh mountainous territory. As time goes by, people have been studying this great mountaineer.
Nevertheless, studying them requires more effort because they are naturally individualistic creatures with super aggressive traits. Some of us might recognize them from pictures, but that’s the extent of our knowledge. Yet there are still many more things to know about them. So, let’s start with these 15 facts about mountain goats!
1. Mountain Goats are Not Ordinary Goats
Mountain goats have a different genus from ordinary goats. They are closely associated with antelopes, gazelles, and cattle. So, people considered its characteristics a combination of both goats and antelopes.
Furthermore, mountain goats have shorter and more slender horns compared to goats. Their horns are not made for epic battles like actual male goats.
Mostly found in areas at higher elevations, mountain goats have thicker coats and lighter skull bones. Such traits are needed to survive the harsh mountain environment. Thus, mountain goats and goats are two different species.
2. Introduced To Mountains
Since 1960, mountain goats have been introduced to different places. They are native to Washington, Idaho, and Montana. But then, Biologists started to introduce them to Utah.
Even though Utah has a lower altitude than its native home, mountain goats can still thrive. Since then, these Utah mountain goats have been introduced to parks and mountains such as the Olympic National Park.
3. How Do They Climb
Living in mountainous terrain causes these mountain goats to be built differently. Their ability to climb lies in their unique hooves. They have toes that help them hold on to rocks while moving vertically. It also helps them maintain balance as they are going down the mountain.
In addition, their toes are also covered with a rough pad which acts like their climbing shoes. These pads have a rough texture which helps add more friction when they go through slippery slopes covered by ice and snow.
However, the hooves need to be flexible enough to grab on the uneven ground and act as skidproof shoes. Overall, their feet are made to help carry their whole weight getting through slopes, snow, and all extreme mountain terrain safely.
4. Climb to Survive
You might wonder why mountain goats like to wander around steep slopes instead of the safer route on the mountain. It is actually one of their survival methods. Other animals can’t navigate easily in these places. Thus it is their primary method of surviving from predators.
Nannies, adult mountain goats, usually stand behind the Kids to prevent them from being taken away by eagles. This is their best way of getting themselves safe space from predators. It is an effective survival method. In fact, mountain goats are often killed by gravity and avalanches rather than predators.
5. Flying From Cliff to Cliff
In addition to being really good at cliff climbing, mountain goats can also jump from one cliff to another. They can effortlessly leap nearly 12 feet in a single bound!
It does show how they can survive in the mountains by being both powerful and agile at the same time. Its jumping ability shows how resilient they are despite having those fluffy coats.
6. Order of Rank
Mountain goats have different ranks in a group. It determines their sleeping and feeding place. It also determines who gets to use the salt licks first. Yes, mountain goats love licking on those salty minerals! The larger nannies are usually on top of the rank with their Kids.
The Billies, the male goats, usually live with a separate group consisting of Billies only. If they happen to be with the group of Nannies and their Kids, he will be in the lowest rank. He gets a rank raise during mating season.
7. Stay Away from Mountain Goats
By nature, mountain goats are aggressive creatures. Studies find that they get into three to four fights in one hour. They fight with each other and are very territorial. It is common for them to fight over food with others due to the scarcity of food supplies in the mountains.
You need to stay away from them and just admire them from afar. It is a fact that mountain goats are susceptible to human disturbance. They get nervous from loud noises emitted by helicopters, airplanes, and other sources. The stress causes them to be less likely to survive.
8. Mountain Goat Killed Human
Robert H. Broadman is the first, and only account of a human being killed by a mountain goat is Robert H. Broadman. As he was climbing the Olympic National Park, he had an unexpected and deadly encounter with a mountain goat.
He tried to shoo away the mountain goat as it approached him while walking the hiking trail. Then, the mountain goat attacked him aggressively and stood over him. It took some time and effort to finally be able to distract the mountain goat. However, it is already too late to save Broadman. Such a morbid yet intriguing fact about mountain goats!
9. Self-Made Beds
You might wonder how the mountain goats sleep because they live in such extreme, steep parts of the mountain. Mountain goats make themselves bed by making a depression in softer ground parts, an area with sandy soils.
Sleeping on these will keep them from falling down steep slopes. Also, they like to chew their cud in these beds during the day, just like us who enjoy eating in bed.
10. One Kid Each Year
Mountain goats usually breed around October to early December. Their mating rituals include Billies staring at Nannies for a long time and engaging in a fight to show off. Then, nannies will undergo pregnancy for 6 months, so one kid from each Nannie will arrive in spring.
Mountain goats are polygynous: Billies mate with more than one Nannies. Some Nannies also breed with more than one Billies during the breeding season.
11. Horns Never Shed
Unlike elk, deer, or moose, who shed their antlers from time to time, the horns of mountain goats grow continuously. This is why we can know their age by looking at their horns.
Horn rings or annuli act as the age indicator of mountain goats. The horn ring will not be visible in the first year. You can calculate the age of the mountain goats by counting the number of annuli and adding by 1.5 years, which is the year the annulus starts to form.
12. Mountain Goat Shed Their Coats
To survive living on a mountain, mountain goats develop fluffy and thick coats to keep them warm. However, during summer, they will shed their winter coats for shorter furs to adapt to the warmer weather.
They will leave their old winter coats by rubbing them off as they walk or on the ground where they rest. Around September 15, their winter coats will start to grow back.
13. Mountain Goats Like Human Urine
Here is a shocking fact about mountain goats! These animals are willing to go for more than 15 miles to find salt licks. They love salt, and they need their salt intake. Over time, they have learned that human pee contains lots of salt due to the salt food we eat.
Thus, they will often try to hunt your pee down to get their salt needs sorted. Especially on hiking trails, you will see mountain goats ready to lick rocks and plants that just have fresh urine on them.
14. The Most Dangerous Hunt in North America
If you are up to some challenge, you might consider mountain goats hunting. Because they live in such extreme terrain, they are very challenging for us to hunt. You might want to prepare your climbing skills to keep yourself safe.
Hunting mountain goats is not for mere sustenance but as a trophy. Their meat is tough and unpalatable, and their horns are not too desirable. Thus people only hunt for what we usually call trophy hunt. Of course, we should be careful about their conservation status. We don’t want them to go extinct, do we!
15. Mountain Goats Relatives
Mountain goats are usually found in Northern America, but their relatives are also roaming the Asian mountains, called Serows. There are seven species of serows. They can be found in the Himalayas, forested slopes of Thailand and Sumatra, and forests of Taiwan and Japan.
Serow in Japan is the most studied compared to the rest, and there are 100,000 of them now in Japan. Another Asian relative is the Gorals. They live in mountain ranges including China, Nepal, Russia, Bhutan, Korea, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. In Nepal, these Gorals are facing illegal hunting. In Korea, on the other hand, the Gorals are losing more of their natural habitat.
Lastly, the mountain goat’s European relative is the Chamois. They roam around in the Alps of Austria, France, and Italy. Their biggest challenge is climate change. As the world heats up, it is hard for them to get the cold temperature they need. Studies found that young Chamois are now 25 percent smaller in weight than 30 years ago. Despite having enough nutritious food availability, they are still getting smaller and smaller.
After reading all 15 facts, we can conclude that mountain goats are fascinating creatures. Despite some of them facing illegal hunting and loss of habitat, they slowly and gracefully find their way to survive. However, we might want to consider our human activities that have worsened the climate changes happening today and eventually hurt them.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges for these mountain goats. Melting ice could cause them to die due to frequent avalanches. We might find smaller and skinnier mountain goats in the future as they try to adapt to their not-so-optimal new habitat. So, we should help preserve their natural cold habitat however we can!