The range of the mountain goat includes the Rocky Mountains, the Cascades, and other mountain regions of the Western Cordillera, from Washington, Idaho, and Montana, through British Columbia, Alberta, southern Yukon and southeastern Alaska. There are also introduced populations in other areas of the U.S. In all, there are thought to be 100,000 members of the species in North America.
|Glacier National Park; photo by Ron Niebrugge|
Mountain goats are the largest mammals to live in high-altitude habitats that sometimes exceed 13,000 feet. Most of the year, they stay above the tree line, although they migrate seasonally to higher or lower elevations within that range. They feed on grasses, sedges, herbs, shrubs, ferns, mosses, and lichen.
Male mountain goats are called "billies," and females are called "nannies," just as if they were real goats. Both males and females have beards, short tails, and long black horns which contain yearly growth rings.
|Learning to be Mountain Goats|
|Bad Hair Day|
Mountain goats are white, and they have double coats. The dense woolly undercoat is covered by an outer coat made up of longer, hollow hairs. These thick coats allow the animals to withstand temperatures as low as -50ºF and winds of up to 100 mph. In the spring, the goats molt by rubbing against rocks and trees. The males molt first, and the females shed their coats after their kids have been born.
|Glacier National Park; photo by Wingchi Poon|
Kids are born in late May or early June. Each nanny generally has only one offspring that weighs about 7 pounds at birth. Within hours, kids start trying to run and climb. After a month, the youngsters are mostly weaned, but they will follow their mothers closely for the first year of life.
Nannies protect their kids fiercely from predators such as eagles, wolves, wolverines, lynxes, bears, and cougars. They will also position themselves below their kids on steep slopes to stop freefalls.
One time my mom saw a Rocky Mountain goat. It was in Glacier National Park. But I don't care if I ever see one because they live way up high where it's cold and snowy, which is not the kind of place any sensible chihuahua would want to go!