Wildlife Portfolio of the Western National Parks
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THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN GOAT is our outstanding mammalian mountaineer and is found in the mountains of the West from Mount Rainier north to Alaska. In my experience, it is a dweller of the higher peaks where snow is a common feature of the landscape. Although commonly called a goat, this animal is really a large white antelope and is related to the European chamois.

The Rocky Mountain goat is clothed with long, shaggy, creamy-white hair and fine woolly undercoat. In fact, in the northern portion of its range, the wool of this animal formerly was woven into substantial blankets by the Chilkat Indians. The males are distinctly larger than the females, having a total length of about 6-1/2 feet and a height at shoulder of 3-1/2 feet. A large male weighs approximately 300 pounds. Both sexes are armed with rather slender black horns which curve slightly backwards.

The mountain goat is a characteristic inhabitant of Glacier National Park and I found a number of these animals at Sperry Glacier on August 11, 1931. The hostess at the Chalet told me that about July 1, when the Chalet first opened for the season and the higher mountain slopes were deeply covered with snow, there were as many as 30 or 40 goats around the Chalet. She also told me that the goats disturbed the slumber of the visitors by running and jumping on the roof of the Chalet at night. At Glacier National Park on September 3, 1931, George Wright and I made a 14-mile hike to Cracker Lake where we found by actual count 29 goats. At that season their wool was nearly 3 inches long. We found that the goats came down during the night and early morning hours into the alpine meadows to feed but that they always started back up to the protecting ridges as soon as the sun struck their feeding ground. We watched four animals—two females and two juveniles—that were taking a sun bath near the summit of a steep talus slope at the base of a cliff. First they pawed out a level bed in the loose rock; then, having made a comfortable bed about 36 inches in diameter, the female goat laid down and stretched out on her right side, neck extended in the sun. Dr. Frank R. Oastler was fortunate enough to procure an excellent photograph of a female and her young (see illustration) resting as above described. The old males were more retiring, but I secured a picture of one at a distance of 50 yards. When this male became alarmed and started to run with a clumsy gallop, the female and juvenile also took fright and followed.

Formerly, I had the impression that I could go anywhere a mountain goat could travel, but a few experiences in following this animal soon convinced me that this was not the case.


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Last Updated: 01-Jul-2010