Mountain goat facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Mountain goat
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Oreamnos
Rafinesque, 1817
Species: O. americanus
Binomial name
Oreamnos americanus
(Blainville, 1816)

The mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) is a species of goats. They are also known as the Rock Mountain goat. They live in North America. They are part of the genus Oreamnos, or 'true goats'. They like to live on high elevations. Mountain goats are great at climbing, and will rest on rocky cliffs. They do this so predators cannot get them.

The mountain goat wanders the mountains alone, and meets only to mate. It eats grasses, lichens, and leaves. It is 3-4 ft. at the shoulder (90-120 centimeters.) The mother mountain goat is called a nanny, and the male is called a billy, the baby is called a kid.

Their thick undercoat, and long white overcoat, protects them from blustery wind, and harsh weather that often occurs in their mountainous habitat. Both male and female have short, strong, legs that have large black hooves on the end. The billy had long slender horns that measure approximately 1 foot. The nannies have slightly longer horns. The female uses her horns to defend her young. She will often dominate the territory, and the male will leave her alone.

The female mountain goat, or nanny, becomes pregnant in November, the only month they are together, and gives birth to her kid six months, or half a year, later. The nanny will protect her young for a while and eventually the kid will leave his mother. He will most likely not know his father. They are alone for most of the year except for November which is the mating month.

General appearance and characteristics

Mountain Goat Mount Massive
Mountain goat on Mount Massive, Colorado, United States

Both billy (male) and nanny (female) mountain goats have beards, short tails, and long black horns, 15–28 cm (5.9–11.0 in) in length, which contain yearly growth rings. They are protected from the elements by their woolly white double coats. The fine, dense wool of their undercoats is covered by an outer layer of longer, hollow hairs. Mountain goats molt in spring by rubbing against rocks and trees, with the adult billies shedding their extra wool first and the pregnant nannies shedding last. Their coats help them to withstand winter temperatures as low as −50 °F (−46 °C) and winds of up to 160 kilometres per hour (99 mph).

Flickr - Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife - 023 mtn goat indian rock paustian odfw
Close-up of head

A billy stands about 1 m (3.3 ft) at the shoulder to the waist and can weigh considerably more than the nanny (around 30% more in some cases). Male goats also have longer horns and longer beards than females. Mountain goats can weigh between 45 and 140 kg (99 and 309 lb), and billies will often weigh less than 82 kg (181 lb). The head-and-body length can range from 120–179 cm (47–70 in), with a small tail adding 10–20 cm (3.9–7.9 in).

The mountain goat's feet are well-suited for climbing steep, rocky slopes with pitches exceeding 60°, with inner pads that provide traction and cloven hooves that can spread apart. The tips of their feet have sharp dewclaws that keep them from slipping. They have powerful shoulder and neck muscles that help propel them up steep slopes.

Range and habitat

The mountain goat inhabits the Rocky Mountains and Cascade Range and other mountain regions of the Western Cordillera of North America, from Washington, Idaho and Montana through British Columbia and Alberta, into the southern Yukon and southeastern Alaska. Its northernmost range is said to be along the northern fringe of the Chugach Mountains in southcentral Alaska. Introduced populations can also be found in such areas as Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, South Dakota, and the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.

Mountain goats are the largest mammals found in their high-altitude habitats, which can exceed elevations of 13,000 feet (4,000 m). They sometimes descend to sea level in coastal areas although they are primarily an alpine and subalpine species. The animals usually stay above the tree line throughout the year but they will migrate seasonally to higher or lower elevations within that range. Winter migrations to low-elevation mineral licks often take them several kilometers through forested areas.

Movement patterns

Oreamnos americanus 21073
In the Cascade Range, Mount Rainier National Park, near the southern limit of their distribution.

Daily movements by individual mountain goats are primarily confined to areas on the same mountain face, drainage basin, or alpine opening. Daily movements reflect an individual’s needs for foraging, resting, thermoregulation and security from predators or disturbance. Seasonal movements primarily reflect nutritional needs (e.g., movements to and from mineral licks/salt lick), reproductive needs (i.e., movement of pre-parturient females to "kidding" areas; movement to rutting areas), and climatic influences (i.e., movement to areas in response to foraging conditions). In general, seasonal movements are likely to exhibit a strong elevational component, whereby lower, forested elevations are used during the spring-summer (security cover effects) to access lower elevation mineral licks, and during winter (thermal cover effects) to access forage. The farthest movements are expected to be by dispersing mountain goats. Such movements are likely to involve mountain goats crossing forested valleys as they move between mountain blocks.

Diet

Mountain goat - artificial salt lick
Young mountain goat licking handrail for salt

Mountain goats are herbivores and spend most of their time grazing. Their diets include grasses, herbs, sedges, ferns, mosses, lichens, and twigs and leaves from the low-growing shrubs and conifers of their high-altitude habitat.

Mountain goat at Mount Rushmore National Memorial
A mountain goat grazing at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

In captivity, the mountain goat's diet can also include grain, alfalfa, fruits, vegetables and grass.

Lifecycle and mating

In the wild, mountain goats usually live 12 to 15 years, with their lifespans limited by the wearing down of their teeth. In zoos, however, they can live for 16 to 20 years.

Mountain goat kid
Mountain goat kid at Cawridge, Alberta
Wherever you go I will go
Mountain goat with kid in Glacier National Park

Kids are born in the spring (late May or early June) after a six-month gestation period. Nannies give birth, usually to a single offspring, after moving to an isolated ledge. Kids weigh a little over 3 kilograms (6.6 lb) at birth and begin to run and climb (or attempt to do so) within hours. Although they are mostly weaned within one month, kids follow their mothers closely for the first year of life (or until the nanny gives birth again, if this does not occur the next breeding season); nannies protect their young by leading them out of danger, standing over them when faced by predators, and positioning themselves below their kids on steep slopes to stop freefalls.

Aggressive behavior

Nannies can be very competitive and protective of their space and food sources. They fight with one another for dominance in conflicts that can ultimately include all the nannies in the herd. In these battles, nannies circle each other with their heads lowered, displaying their horns. As with fights between billies during breeding season, these conflicts can occasionally lead to injury or death, but are usually harmless. To avoid fighting, an animal may show a posture of nonaggression by stretching low to the ground.

In regions below the tree line, nannies use their fighting abilities to protect themselves and their offspring from predators. Predators, including wolves, wolverines, lynxes, and bears, attack goats of most ages given the opportunity. The cougar is perhaps the primary predator, being powerful enough to overwhelm the largest adults and uniquely nimble enough to navigate the rocky ecosystem of the goats. Though their size protects them from most potential predators in higher altitudes, nannies must sometimes defend their young from golden eagles, which can be a predatory threat to kids. Nannies have even been observed trying to dominate the more passive, but often heavier bighorn sheep that share some of their territory.

Mountain goats can occasionally be aggressive towards humans, with at least one reported fatality resulting from an attack by a mountain goat.

Wool

Although mountain goats have never been domesticated and commercialized for their wool, pre-Columbian indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast did incorporate their wool into their weaving by collecting spring moulted wool left by wild goats.


Mountain goat Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.