Friday, August 19, 2011

The Magnificent Mountain Goat

Although called a goat, mountain goats are actually a member of the animal family that includes cows, antelope and gazelles. Its genus, Oreamnos, roughly translates to “mountain lamb”, which makes sense given the high altitude at which these animals live. Found exclusively in the high mountain ranges of western North America, mountain goats are excellent climbers that spend most of their time at elevations of up to 13,000 feet; far out of the range of most predators.
Mountain goats are white in color with a noticeable beard and rearward-curving horns on both sexes. They have a double coat that includes a dense under layer covered with an outer coat of hollow hairs that moult in the spring. This thick outer coat allows them to withstand temperatures as low as -50 degrees F and 100mph winds. For as sure-footed as they are, mountain goats are quite large. They usually stand over 3 feet at the shoulders, and weigh anywhere from 100-300lbs.

Due to their imposing size and the high altitudes at which they live, mature mountain goats are not easy prey. Though they do have to be wary of wolves, cougars, and bears, especially when traveling between peaks at lower altitudes, the biggest threat of predation comes from golden eagles, which have been known to attack young goat kids. Mountain goats can and will use their horns to injure or kill large predators or humans that get too close to their kids; however, they are not naturally confrontational animals.
Mountain goats prefer to live in groups of 3-50 animals and spend their time foraging for grass, moss, lichen and other high altitude foliage. They currently exist in significant numbers are considered a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature

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