Nature Notes

Vol. VIII August 1, 1930 No. 9

Cliff Dwellers

"Cliff Dwellers" suggests the copper-skinned Indians of the Southwest. But the cliff dwellers of Mt. Rainier are a whiskered clan. They have four far-climbing feet, a comical white beard and an incorrigible habit of looking down on the world. They are "foul weather friends". For when the weather is fair they sit upon their haunches on the ice of the glaciers far up "The Mountain" or survey the low country with complacent eye from glacier-girdled pinnacles. But when fog and foul weather harry these dizzy heights the clan comes down into the Hudsonian meadows just below.

It was on just such a day (July 25) that the writer and a photo enthusiast perched on a ridge in St . Andrews park and "shot" the flowers and far-flung scenes below. About 5 p. m. we faced the icy breeze, homeward bound.

We came to a gap in the ridge and suddenly there on the green slope below us stood a herd of twenty-two Mountain Goat! One hoary old chieftian saw us instantly and raced hurriedly up the slope away from the herd. Reaching a clump of trees he turned to stare curiously and then disappeared, leaving his comrades to graze unwarned. Taking the motion picture camera we trotted up under the shelter of the ridge and then crawled slowly down the slope. Two more whiskered bachelors saw us and started nervously up the hill. Another younger billy followed them and all disappeared over the ridge still leaving the herd defenseless and at our mercy.

And what a domestic scene greeted us! Four matrons grazed greedily upon the grass and low huckleberry bushes of the little hillside hollow. Six fretful kids followed them about, constantly bloating with a high pitched, whinnying inflection. One harried mother gave up the attempt to feed herself and settled down to the business of dispensing liquid refreshments from nature's own lunch stand. Both, of her offspring ordered milk shakes at once and demanded immediate service. First one and then the other would tug and butt at the source of nourishment, bleating petulantly between sips.

Mountain Goat

One young nanny disregarded the demands of her kid long enough to indugle in her daily ablutions. She knelt on all four knees in a soft, dusty wallow and first with one hoof and then with the other she showered herself with fine, warm dust Then shaking herself, rolling and splashing around like a baby in a bath tub she kicked up a dust cloud like a young whirlwind.

Meanwhile the other mothers, each with one kid, the four unattatched nannies, and four yearling billies grazed and scratched and milled peacefully about. Suddenly the mother with twins saw the hunter with his movie camera trained on the herd. She stared a moment curiously, then took alarm and deserted her two greedy suckers. She started off parallel to the ridge, followed immediately by the rest of the herd. At first they moved languidly, but once well out of "danger" they broke into a stiff-legged army mule gallop over the green slope. The nannies and kids kept low down the slope, parallel to the Puyallup Cleaver while the males of the band climbed diagonally up the crest of the cleaver and disappeared.

We followed the herd without great difficulty, keeping just above them until we ran out of film. Returning down the crest of the cleaver we saw the hoary chieftian who first took alarm, still staring at us from the base of a pinnacle on the cleaver. Seeing us he climbed the pinnacle and then, after a farewell look, ambled off to rejoin the band.

L. G. Richards, Park Ranger.

Pinnacle Peak and Castle Rock

<<< Previous
> Cover <