Mountain goats are incredible creatures, and it’s always a special treat to see one while hiking. When it comes to hiking in Mountain Goat country, what are you supposed to do? Are they docile? Are they dangerous? We’ll discuss it all in this article. Read on to find out what to do if you see a mountain goat while hiking on your next adventure.
What Are Mountain Goats?
Despite the name, mountain goats are actually not goats at all, but they’re more closely related to antelope and deer. They’re native to North America, and their scientific name is Oreamnos americanus.
Mountain goats are sure-footed and agile, and they’re known for being able to climb steep, rocky terrain that would be impossible for most other animals. In fact, mountain goats are known as the ‘goats of the Rockies because they’re so often found in Rocky Mountain ranges. They are true mountain climbers and typically live above the tree line in alpine environments.
Lastly, mountain goats are large animals – males can weigh up to 350 pounds. They have long shaggy coat that is typically white or cream-colored. Their horns are black and curved, and they have short tails. Mountain goats are herbivores, and their diet consists mostly of grasses, sedges, and forbs. In the winter, they will also eat lichens, mosses, and woody plants.
Are Mountain Goats Dangerous?
When most people think of goats, they probably think of friendly and goofy farm animals. See below:
But the reality is that mountain goats are wild animals who can cause some serious damage and have fatally attacked humans in the past. When it comes to wildlife safety tips while hiking, you always need to keep your guard up.
They are also known to butt humans with their horns if they feel threatened. This may not sound too dangerous, but given that mountain goats can weigh up to 350 pounds, this can obviously inflict tremendous pain. In 2010, a hiker in Olympic National Park was fatally gored by a mountain goat.
Mountain goats are generally docile but can become aggressive if they feel threatened. If you see a mountain goat while hiking, be sure to give it plenty of space – do not approach it or try to pet it. If you have a dog with you, keep it on a leash and under control at all times. Dogs often look like predators to wildlife, which includes mountain goats, and they may become agitated if they see one.
Where Are Mountain Goats Typically Found?
Generally, you’ll only find mountain goats in very specific habitats. They are most often found in mountainous regions like the Rockies, Cascades, and Northern Coast Range. So if you’re in Texas like me, you’re more likely to be hiking with alligators than mountain goats.
Mountain goats typically live in alpine environments above the tree line. They prefer steep, rocky slopes with plenty of grasses and other vegetation for them to eat. You’re not likely to find mountain goats at lower elevations, as they prefer to be in very mountainous regions.
As for the United States, they are primarily located in Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Idaho.
Tips for Hiking in Mountain Goat Country
Now that we know a little bit more about mountain goats and where they’re typically found, what should you do if you see one while hiking?
First off, mountain goats are typically found in the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Range – so I wanted to focus this section on that region in particular.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times and keep an eye out for mountain goats.
- If you see a mountain goat, give it plenty of space – at least 100 feet. Do not approach it.
- If you pee on the trail, do it away from cliffs or ledges where mountain goats may be present. They are attracted to the salt in urine and may approach you if they smell it.
- If a mountain goat approaches you, make yourself as big as possible and make loud noises to scare it away.
- Be sure always to keep your dog on a leash, as dogs can look like predators to mountain goats.
- Follow all signs and warnings posted by the park or forest Service.
What Should You Do If A Mountain Goat Charges At You?
The first thing you need to be aware of is the mountain goat horns. These horns can cause some tremendous damage – even fatal wounds, as mentioned above. So if a mountain goat charges at you, the first thing you need to do is protect your vital organs.
To do this, curl up into a ball with your head tucked in and your hands over your neck. Basically, you want to make yourself as small of a target as possible.
If you have a backpack on, keep it on – this will help protect your back. You may also want to use your backpack as a shield to help protect your head and vital organs.
Once you’re in a tight ball, start making loud noises – yell, scream, bang rocks together – anything to make yourself as loud and scary as possible.
The goal is to make the mountain goat feel threatened so that it will back off. Remember, these animals are wild and can be dangerous, so it’s important to take any necessary precautions to protect yourself.
Mountain goats may look cute, goofy, and harmless, but they are underrated in power and strength (plus, they are still wild animals.) So if you’re hiking in mountain goat country, be sure to take the necessary precautions to keep yourself safe.
Did you find this article helpful? Do you have any tips or advice to share? Let us know in the comments below!