Nature Notes

Vol. IV August 25, 1926 No. 9

By: J. B. Flett, Former Park Naturalist.
(Continued from last week)

For several years a small bunch of five or six goats wintered on Cougar Rock near Longmire Springs. They were so near that I thought I would get acquainted with them, but my many attempts partially failed, although they did not rush off as though they were afraid, during the last years, as they did when I first came.

One late afternoon I saw the big Billy on the crag alone. As it was a little late in the afternoon, I hurried off and saw him climb up on a bench and lie down. He did not see me. I kept in the timber and climbed up above him. I had my kodak in hand ready to take a photo of him as son as he arose. I supposed he would simply go back over the cliff which he had recently climbed. He surprised me by coming up under the intervening cliff and for the time being got out of sight. He soon appeared on the same level that I was on but away to one side where I was sure he could not climb up. I stood in the only exit. I approached him slowly, taking a snap at him with the kodak occasionally. He finally disappeared behind some ravines in the terrace and found that he could not get out on that level. He came back on the run, very much excited, and stopped in plain sight on the sharp, smooth, rock back-bone which connected with the terrace above. He looked at me and then at the steep, smooth slope above him. He was evidently debating whether to butt me off the narrow passageway, or climb the hog-back. I laid the kodak in a safe place and picked out a small hemlock overhanging the eight hundred foot crag and about fifty feet from the goat. I was to climb this tree in case of emergency. I slowly edged my way a little closer as he sat dog fashion looking up the rock.

Soon he surprised me by pushing up his fore legs on the smooth rock end, groaning as if he as in pain, wormed his way up, lying flat on his ventral surface and working his muscles like a snake. When he reached the terrace above, he walked out the entrance through which I had approached. He never stood up until he reached the terrace above. He looked long enough for two goats as he hit the slope with his hind legs occasionally. his main locomotion was surely muscular. I observed him at a range of about thirty feet and became so absorbed in that performance that I forgot all about the kodak.

I have never read of this form of locomotion in any book. To supplement this observation, I once saw a goat spread out in this same manner and and go up a steep slope. I was quite a distance from the animal and did not think much about the stunt, as I could not see him work his muscles.

During the hot part of the day the mountain goats go up on the snow field and glaciers, where it is cooler and where there is less trouble with flies. The same localities are often visited repeatedly by the flock. It is a common habitat for them to sit down on the snow or ice on their haunches like a dog. As the slope is sometimes a little steep it is preferable for them to sit on the same spot on the snow or ice, especially after a depression on the slope is once formed. By so doing day after day, the depressions become deep and it is not uncommon to come upon goats half concealed in their sitting posture. I had seen these depressions several times before I knew how they were formed.

It is somewhat difficult to approach a flock at close range without being see, but this can be done after one becomes familiar with their habits. The writer with two others surprised a big Billy with nothing in sight but his head and shoulders. He lost no time in scampering off after he saw us. There were numverous other depressions but the flock was feeding on the tender grass near by.

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