Mountain goats are known to be powerful climbers and cliff-hopping mammals. They prefer dwelling in alpine or subalpine regions, and their thick fur is fit for extremely cold weather.
Also called Rocky Mountain goats, they are the largest mammal living in high-altitude habitats and one of the world’s best climbers.
Do mountain goats fall off mountains? Some mountain goats fall off mountains. Sometimes, they lose their footing and balance, especially if they are navigating rocky, uneven vertical terrains so fast. Despite their speed and agility, some of these rock-climbing mammals die or get injured after falling from a cliff.
Scientifically known as Oreamnos americanus, mountain goats are native to the northern part of the Rocky Mountains, but they can also be seen in Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, and Washington. This comprehensive guide will teach you interesting characteristics of mountain goats and what to do in case you encounter them.
Are Mountain Goats Really Goats?
Contrary to what many people think, mountain goats are not really goats. Both mammals belong to the family Bovidae, which includes antelopes, cattle, and gazelles.
Although they are both in the order Artiodactyla, mountain goats are not true goats. They are known as goat-antelopes or close relatives of goats.
Unlike goats, mountain goats have thinner, lighter skulls, as well as two layers of fur that protect them from cold in the high mountains.
The inner fur is short, while the outer layer of fur can extend up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) long. Mountain goats will shed these guard hairs in the late spring to prepare them for summer.
What Is Special About a Mountain Goat?
Mountain goats have lots of special characteristics. To start with, they have very excellent climbing abilities and can climb at least 1,500 vertical feet in just 20 minutes!
Amazingly, mountain goats can also jump at almost 12 feet high in a single jump. This is even though they weigh 150-220 pounds (68-100 kg).
Aside from that, mountain goats are usually found at an elevation of about 4,000 meters (13,120 feet) above the tree lines.
They also have short, slender, but very sharp horns, which have rings that can reveal their ages. A 2-year-old mountain goat has one ring, a three-year-old goat has two rings, and so on.
Are Mountain Goats Intelligent?
No records are showing how intelligent mountain goats are. But then, they are very smart in terms of rock climbing and balancing. On the other hand, some studies proved the intelligence of domesticated goats.
They have a very sharp memory and can easily learn basic activities such as opening a gate.
How Do Mountain Goats Not Fall?
Mountain goats don’t fall when they climb because of the soft rubber pads at the bottom of their hooves that are split.
These concave footpads act like suction cups to give them superior grip during climbing. Every time they step, their toes spread to maintain proper balance as if they are wearing professional climbing shoes.
Also, the shoulders of a mountain goat have superb strength that can easily lift its muscular body. Their strong physical build helps in pulling themselves up even at the dangerous side of a cliff.
Not to mention, mountain goats also have very clear eyesight, and they are among the few animals that are not afraid of heights.
How Many Mountain Goats Die from Falling off the Cliff?
Unfortunately, there are no official records that tell how many mountain goats have died after falling off a cliff.
Nevertheless, researchers suggest that male mountain goats (called billies) fight each other throughout the year, not only during mating season. As a result, the weaker ones may have fallen off the cliff.
On the other hand, female mountain goats (called nannies) fight over dominance, and most baby mountain goats (called kids) usually climb the mountains with their mothers.
But while some nannies and kids may also fall, their superb climbing abilities are enough to conclude that death due to falling rarely happens.
Why Do Mountain Goats Always Climb the Deadliest Cliffs?
Mountain goats always climb the deadliest cliff to avoid predators such as bears, eagles, wolves, and wolverines.
Unlike other wild mammals that go lowlands during winter, mountain goats spend only a little time downhill to keep their body warm. Shortly, these superb rock climbers will go back to their natural habitat.
Why Do Mountain Goats Get Up So High?
Aside from being safe from predators, mountain goats also climb so high to lick rocks. Like human sweat and pee, mountain rocks have nutrients such as salts and minerals that they need to maintain their strength.
Interestingly, this is also why some mountain goats are attracted to people, especially mountain hikers.
Do Mountain Goats Know Climbing Naturally?
Mountain goats naturally know how to climb. In fact, a baby mountain goat will start to climb on anything, only a few hours after birth. From time to time, a kid will climb to its mother even if its legs are still too weak. No matter how many times a newborn goat will fall, it will continue to climb without the help of adults.
Can You Domesticate a Mountain Goat?
You cannot domesticate mountain goats simply because they are wild animals. These gigantic mammals are also very territorial and can be aggressive. Although some of them are accustomed to people, they are very unpredictable and cannot be tamed. So far, there is no report of domesticated mountain goats.
Do Mountain Goats Hurt People?
Mountain goats are not usually dangerous, but they can hurt people. Males are most aggressive during the breeding season, which is from July to October.
Adults may also stalk people when they are craving salt from sweat and urine. In 2017, a man captured a mountain goat on video as it weirdly approached him.
Sad to say, mountain goats can also kill people. In October 2010, an experienced hiker in Olympic National Park was killed by a mountain goat named Klahhane Billy. After the attack, the vicious animal stood on top of its victim for more than 30 minutes before escaping. Later, a park staff shot the mountain goat to death.
How Do You Scare Off a Mountain Goat?
Again, mountain goats can become hostile towards humans at any time. Although some of them at Olympic National Park have been relocated to their natural habitat, you may still encounter some of them while you are hiking. And if you do, here are some ways to scare a mountain goat, according to experts.
- Always stay at least 50 yards (about 150 feet) away from the mountain goat. This is about half the length of a standard football field.
- If a mountain goat starts approaching you, move away slowly and maintain the minimum distance.
- If the animal leaves, don’t follow or chase him back.
- If the animal continues to approach you, try taking an aggressive posture.
- If it did not work, scream, whistle, wave your arms or clothing or throw some rocks at the animal.
- If the mountain goat is getting more aggressive, call 911 immediately or your local department of wildlife.
- If your last resort is to fight back, grab its horns as fast as you can. Note, however, that they can whip their heads around you very quickly, and their horns are razor-sharp.
To reduce the possibility of a mountain goat encounter, here are some safety reminders:
- If you need to urinate while hiking, do it far away from the trail.
- Never leave your gear or clothes unattended.
- If you see some mountain goats that seem to be friendly, never feed them or try to pet the babies, no matter how cute they are.
Mountain goats are not the type of animal that you can have as pets. Nonetheless, you may still witness their unique ability in climbing rugged, mountainous terrain or staying above the tree lines, especially during summer. Fortunately, these extraordinary cliffhangers are still very far from extinction.