Monday, April 20, 2009

Mountain Goats

I have always had a fascination with mountain goats. Their unique spiky horns, their shaggy white coats, and their ability to climb seemingly sheer cliffs, make them a wonder to me. About 15 years ago I purchased a print drawing of a mountain goat mother and calf from a small shop in Ouray, Colorado, high in the Colorado Rockies.
The picture hung on the wall of my new law office in San Bernardino for about ten years. When we moved our law offices to Redlands, I was looking on ebay and found a mountain goat rug for sale. I purchased it and it went on my new office wall instead. The mountain goat picture was put in mothballs. I have seen lots of game rugs: mountain lion, bobcat, bear, etc, but never a mountain goat.
The coat is beautiful, but the hair is thick and very coarse. The tips of the horns are very sharp.

In August 1996, while hiking with Judy, my brother-in-law, Dave, and sister-in-law, Bonnie, to the summit of Mt. Timpanogas outside Provo, Utah, Dave and I went off the trail up in an area where we thought we might have seen some mountain goats. As we walked slowly, with Dave in front, I saw him staring at a herd of about 20 mountain goats. We got closer and closer and I eventually asked him, "when are you going to take a picture" (I didn't have my camera). He replied, "a picture of what?" It dawned on me that he didn't see the mountain goats right in front of us in a big patch of snow. He was quite startled when I pointed them out to him. They allowed us to get quite close. So close that the one nearest to us started to look agitated and I was afraid it might use us as pin cushions. We backed off, and got some pictures, but it was quite a thrill. The pictures below were taken by Dave.

Just last year, in July 2008, I went with Dave and his son, Matt, again to hike Mount Timpanogas. I was armed with a long, heavy 500 milimeter lense and tripod. I wanted to be able to get my own pictures of mountain goats on this trip. I was disappointed, on the way back down the mountain, that we had seen no goats. Then I spotted some way up on the mountain side. Fortunately, I had my powerfull lense and was able to get some photos. I particularly liked the one below of them scampering across a large patch of snow.
Mount Timpanogas may be my favorite hike anywhere. It is challenging, the scenery is spectacular, the wildflowers are amazing, there is abundant water, but best of all, there are moose, and even better, mountain goats, along the way.

In August 2010 I was in Colorado with Sam and Andrew and we drove to the top of 14,000+ foot Mount Evans. There we encountered quite a few mountain goats and were able to get very close to them. We saw several pairings of mother and kid,
a number of solitary goats,
and one large group of 29 goats just off the side of the road. One young kid was sitting on a dirt mound and then rolled around in the dirt.
The kids were quite captivating, very cute with more energy than their parents.
Most of the time they had their heads down searching for and eating grass. This little one looked like it was searching for something else.
This kid was near the parking lot near the summit.
There is so little vegetation where they are, it is hard to believe they can find enough to survive. They are truly hardy creatures. Very fun to get close to and observe.

In August 2013, while climbing Quandary Peak, outside Breckenridge, Colorado, I had several close encounters with mountain goats. I stopped and watched one, both on the way up and on the way down, as it ate grass very near the trail. Several hundred yards further, on the way down, I was within about 15 yards of a goat as it foraged on grasses. I saw another three goats in the distance.
Foraging on the mountainside with fog rolling in.
A different mountain goat, head down, going after grass.
Close-up of of moulting fur. 


  1. You have a 500mm lens? We need to talk.

  2. Knockwurst, I agree, I hope the organs were used to make some yummy goat sausage. Yiou have certainly convinced me of my errors. Touche.

  3. Thanks for the photos. I am picking my goat rug up tomorrow and five months after I harvested the goat we are still eating the meat he provided. FYI, Your goat rug is a female.

    1. I've never had mountain goat meat. It is on my list to try some day. They are amazing animals.

  4. Mt. Goat is delicious in my experience. I've heard old billies are not good if they are in rut. I've taken two monsters out of Alaska and they were excellent.