Mountain goats, also called the Rocky Mountain goats, are a species of goats who live in North America. They have close relatives all over the world and evolved in a parallel path to domestic goats, but the only true mountain goats live in Western Canada and Northwestern America. However, the most correct classification of these animals is to recognize that they are equally close to antelopes as they are to the rest of the goat family.
As their name probably suggests, mountain goats live at great heights and rarely descend to sea level. At a height of 13,000 feet, mountains goats prefer to stay above the treeline, only descending rarely. They live in alpine regions and are just as comfortable on ice as they are on rocks and cliffs. Mountain goats are the largest animals in that environment, but still only about half as tall as a human. They can vary in weight from 100 pounds to 300 pounds. In a day, the goats don’t travel very far. They tend to live within a small location on their mountain. However, over the course of one year or many, they make drastic changes to their home, sometimes even crossing valleys to move to another mountain. Females also journey to a site to give birth.
Changing availability of food also motivates the mountain goats to travel. In the winter, they move to lower regions when there are fewer resources up high. Their normal diet consists of mosses and lichens, as well as some grasses and herbs that grow low to the ground at high altitudes.
Kids (baby mountain goats) are born in the summer. The mothers and kids will form large nursery groups. The kids need to stay with their mothers for approximately a year after they are born, but within an hour they are moving and attempting to run and climb. But they’re not very good at it at first, so the mothers have to keep a close eye on their kids. When climbing together, the mother will position herself below her kid to catch them should they fall.
The mothers also protect their kids from predators, including mountain lions, wolves, and bears, as well as from other nannies (the female goats). Both male and female mountain goats have horns and sometimes fights over food can lead to disputes between nannies that look like the fights the males have during courtship. Some nannies have also been seen to try to push bighorn sheep away from their nursery groups, despite the bighorn sheep being larger and heavier.
Nannies spend most of their year in those large nursery groups, but males choose to live in small groups of a couple or three individuals. In the winter, November and December, the males and females meet for the mating season. That means that right now, fights over the nannies are probably breaking out and some of the males are probably being firmly rejected. Poor guys!
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