Friday, June 27, 2008

Mountain Goats!

How I envy the Mountain Goat (Oreamnos americanus). Mother Nature has equipped them with all the mountain equipment they need to thrive in a high alpine environment where I have to take out stock in REI. For starters, they have a double coat, the inner one being a dense fur and the outer one being long hollow hairs. This haute couture is rated to -50F. Next time one of your buff friends says he does not need to layer, just throw the Mountain Goat in his face. These bad boys invented technical fabrics and are stylish to boot.

Speaking of boots, how much money did you spend on your last pair? Well, I wish I had the Mountain Goat’s feet. Their toes are padded for extra grip, they have a dewclaw that also allows them to cling to cliff faces that only the hardiest rock climber would dare ascend, and their hooves are cloven, which allows them to spread and grip. Take that Spiderman!

Did you know that Mountain Goats are not native to Colorado? Experts believe that the farthest south they naturally roamed was southern Wyoming. They were introduced into the state back in 1947 to provide game for hunters. In 1993 though, the Colorado Division of Wildlife made them naturalized citizens and declared them “native”. I wonder how many of the people sporting those “native” bumper stickers are doing so on similarly shady circumstances!

Despite their long beards and curved black horns, Mountain Goats are really not goats. They are actually closer to antelope and cattle. They spend their entire life on one mountain but will occasionally come down from their precipitous heights to seek out mineral licks. I think that is why I was able to get such great pictures of these goats. There was a mineral lick in the cleft of a rock that was drawing them down. When not sucking on rocks, however, Mountain Goats eat grasses, herbs, sedges, ferns, moss, lichen, twigs, and if you are not careful your topo map. And you say they are not goats…hmmm.

Bad boys of the mountain lounging on a shelf above the mineral lick

Sighting a Mountain Goat in Colorado is a blessed event. There are two prominent herds, one on Mt. Evans and another in the Chicago Basin. My envy of Mountain Goats extends to their choice of Colorado real estate. So get out there and explore Colorado and maybe you’ll be blessed too…Yodel-a yodel-a yodel-a-hee hoo!


Nina said...

Hey - great blog and awesome mountain goat photos! I replied to your comment on my Michigan blog but I never know if people check back. So...
I'm happy to hear you're contemplating a trip to MI. Since both the snow and fall color can vary, do you have an idea of what region you want to visit? (Upper or Lower peninsula, for example).
Let me know what you're thinking and I'll see if I can get some good info (I ended up being too early for most of the color last year when I went to the U.P. in late Sept).
Thanks for visiting my blog,

Eric said...

Interesting! I googled mtn goats and your blog entry came right up. I was in Chicago Basin a couple of weeks ago, and 4 of the goats including a little one wandered right through our camp! You can see the video on my blog,

sylvia murphy said...

Hi Eric,

I am actually in your neck of the woods this week, attending a science conference in Seattle. It has been a while since I have explored the Pacific Northwest but I would sure love to.

I have not been to Chicago Basin but the behavior you mention is what is frequently reported by other hikers.

Glacier National Park is also known for their "let me rub up against you" herd as well.

Glad to you got to see some of Colorado.