Mountain Goat

Mountain Goat (Oreamnos americanus) are uniquely adapted to the rugged mountain ranges of northwestern North America from Alaska through Washington, Idaho and down through Colorado.

Mountain Goat

Mountain goats are generally grazing animals, depending on the particular habitat and season of the year. Goats spend their summers in high alpine meadows where they feed on tundra grasses, herbs, and shrubs. Most goats will migrate from alpine summer ranges to winter ranges located around tree line but many are known to remain at alpine elevations year-round. Goats prefer habitats that are steep and rocky, such as the rugged cliffs of mountainsides. They have an incredible sense of balance in places where any other animal would lose footing - and a fall from a Mountain Goat habitat means certain death. How do they do it? The secret is in their hooves. The hooves of goats have hard outer shells and rubbery, concave footpads which act like suction cups when weight is applied. The hard rubbery hooves are similar to modern hiking boot treads and combined with years of practice, the goats are more than prepared for life in alpine country.

Due to their choice of habitat, Mountain Goats have few natural predators. Now and again, a Golden Eagle will swoop down to grab a baby goat but the most common cause of death among goats is old age. With an average lifespan of 11 years in the wild, adult goats will eventually and commonly starve to death as a result of worn down teeth. A goat's whole life is spend chewing on grasses and shrubs and eventually, their teeth become so worn down that the goat is unable to eat, leading to death by starvation. The other common cause of death for older goats is as a result of a fall. As goats become older, their sense of balance becomes less acute and often leads to false steps and fatal falls.

From a gender perspective, male goats are referred to as Billies and female goats are called Nannies. Their children are named 'Kids'. Billies and Nannies are remarkably similar and both have horns. The easiest way to tell them apart is by size. Billies are around 40 percent larger than Nannies and average 240 and 170 lbs respectively.

Winter provides less feeding opportunities and adult goats can lose up to 50 pounds during this period, gaining it all back during the plentiful summer months. Mountain goats each have a pair of short and sturdy horns that protrude from just above the eye cavity and extend up / away from their skull. Their horns grow continuously and are never shed for seasonality. Scent glands can be found at the base of each horn and are used to scent mark. Only minor differences can be found in the horns of a male and female goat. Females have a distinct bend at the tips of their horns while males maintain a consistent bend along the entire length of the horn.

What do horns have to do with age? Seasonal rings form on a goat's horns each year. The horns of a mountain goat will have one less ring than its age. So, the horn of a goat that is four years old will have three distinct rings, or a goat that is 7 years old will have six distinct rings on its horns and so forth.