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Mountain Goat

Mountain goats are right at home in the largest high-rises in Montana: large mountain cliffs. And if you think Sir Edmund Hilary was a great mountain climber, wait until you watch a couple mountain goats efforlessly scale a few sheer farces. They're known for their luck and agility while navigating steep, rocky terrain; in this harsh habitat, it's what gives them an advantage over their predators. And while it may look like the only thing to eat on these cliffs is rocks, don't be fooled; mountain goats eat the lichen and tiny clumps of grass that grow between the rocks.

Mountain Goat
Oreamnos americanus

The biggest distinction between males (known as billies, as in "The Three Billy Goats Gruff") and females (known as nannies, as in "Nanny goat, nanny goat") is...um...well, there isn't a big distinction. Both have horns, and it's difficult to tell them apart from a distance. Generally, the males are larger and hang out alone, while the nannies and the younger goats form small herds. Baby mountain goats, or kids, are born right on the steep rocks and learn to climb right away. (That's somewhat of a necessity when you're born on rocks.)

Mountain goats' hooves have hard outer edges with soft centers that help them keep their footing, so they seldom fall. However, their harsh environment does take its toll; mountain goats don't usually live as long as other big game species. Why? Scraping lichens off rocks eventually wears out their teeth, which leads to starvation.

Glacier National Park is a great area to view mountain goats; you can see them right from the road. Be sure to bring binoculars to get a close look.

Mountain Goat Map