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Home / Hunting / Game Guide / Hoofed Mammals / Mountain Goat

HUNTING
FIELD GUIDE

Hoofed Mammals
Mountain Goat
Oreamnos americanus

Description

A relatively small bovid. Compact, short-legged body. Yellowish-white fur, long and shaggy in winter, shorter in summer; "beard," about 5" (12 cm) long, retained year-round. Eyes, nose, hooves, and horns black. Both sexes have backward-curving, dagger-like horns, up to 12" (30 cm) long in male, 9" (23 cm) in female. Juvenile similar to adult, but with brown hairs along back. Female approximately 15 percent smaller than male. Ht 35–47" (90–120 cm); L 4' –5' 10" (1.25–1.8 m); T 3 1/4–8" (8.4–20 cm); HF 11 3/4–14 1/2" (30–37 cm); Wt average: male 154–180 lb (70–82 kg), female 117–156 lb (53–71 kg). Similar Species Dall’s and Bighorn sheep lack beard, have much larger, curved horns.

Breeding

Mates mid-November through mid-December; gestation 6 months. 1–3 young born mid-May through mid-June. Newborn weighs about 6 1/2 lb (3 kg).

Habitat

Rocky, mountainous areas above timberline.

Range

Natural range: extreme s Alaska, s Yukon, British Columbia, sw Alberta, parts of Washington, n Idaho, and nw Montana. Introduced successfully in Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota.

Discussion

The Mountain Goat is not a true goat, but belongs to a group known as goat-antelopes, which includes the Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) of Europe and Asia Minor. Whereas the horns of true goats sweep up and back, and are transversely ridged or tightly spiraled like a corkscrew, the Mountain Goat’s horns curve back only slightly and are nearly smooth. Its "beard" is not the true chin beard of male goats, but an extension of a throat mane. The Mountain Goat is active in morning and evening and sometimes during moonlit nights. Its hooves are well adapted for rocky peaks, with a sharp outer rim that grips and a rubbery sole that provides traction on steep or smooth surfaces. Traversing peaks and narrow ledges at a stately walk or trot, a Mountain Goat may seem to move across the face of an almost sheer cliff. However, individuals have been known to miss their footing and fall to their deaths. On warm days, the animal will bed on a patch of snow, in a shady spot, or on a mountain ledge. Goats spend much time taking dust baths in dry wallows, particularly in May and June. The sexes herd apart until rutting season, usually in November or December. Mountain Goats are polygamous. Females remain on the nursery ranges during rut, and males move from range to range in search of females in heat. Females will allow males on their ranges in October, but will not permit mating until November. During the rutting season, a male often marks a female with a musky oil from glands at the base of his horns by rubbing his head against her body, and digs a pit from which he paws dirt onto his flanks and belly. While rival males frequently threaten each other, breeding battles are uncommon, as skulls and horns are relatively fragile. The kid, usually born on a mountain ledge, can stand and climb shortly after birth. It starts feeding within a few days of birth, but weaning is not complete until August or September. The kid remains with its mother until the next year’s young is born. Avalanches and rock slides are the greatest killers of Mountain Goats, accounting for many more deaths than predation. Only the golden eagle can attack this species in high mountains; it may try to drive a kid over a cliff. Carnivores such as the Mountain Lion may attack the Mountain Goat as it descends into a valley, but the goat’s sharp hooves make it dangerous prey.

Track

Mountain Goat Track Double-lobed, widely splayed at front; 2 1/2–3 1/2" (64–89 mm) long. Hooves relatively blunt-tipped and spread in front so that track looks square.

Sign

Bed: Shallow depression scraped out in shale or dirt on ledge at base of cliff. In vicinity, white hair snagged on vegetation and rocks, or blown to ground. Scat: Similar to that of sheep and deer; massed when feeding on lush grasses; separate, compacted pellets, usually bell-shaped, sometimes oblong or nearly round, when feeding on drier, brushier foods.

 

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