Friday, September 27, 2013

Mountain Goat

Mountain Goat - Oreamnos americanus

Recently, we saw a mother and her kid foraging in a rocky gully along the Kananaskis Highway. The mother bounded up the grassy hill and ran past us. However, the kid was intimidated by our presence, and as soon the young goat was about ten meters from us, the kid turned and ran back down the hill. The young goat repeated the run-up-to-us, pause and bleat, and then run-back-down manoeuvre about five times before the mother finally returned to the gully.
The mother's fur looked mangy because the autumn moult had started. Mountain Goats moult twice a year. The short 1 cm summer coat moults in autumn to allow the long 20 cm winter coat necessary for a Canadian winter in the mountains.

Male and female goats look the same and are difficult to tell apart. We presumed this was a mother, since kids and even yearlings stay with the mother. The pictures otherwise confirm the female gender. The circumference of the male horn is much larger at the base than the eye of the goat.

Female goats squat to urinate and males "stretch." The mother obliged us by peeing before she ran past us and down into the gully to rejoin her kid.   
The main predators include grizzly bear, wolf, and cougar. Golden Eagles prey on kids and juveniles. These large raptors swoop by and and knock the smaller animals off the cliff-sides and then feed on the fallen carcass. The most common cause of death is avalanche. Mountain Goats forage at higher elevations in the summer and lower elevations in the winter. Except during autumn rut, adult males and females live in separate groups.

Gadd Ben. Handbook of the Canadian Rockies. Corax Press. Jasper, Alberta. 1986.

Naughton Donna. The Natural History of Canadian Mammals. UofT Press. 2012.

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