America NAnimalsMammals

Rocky Mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus)

Mountain goats – horned lords of the mountains

Mountain goats – almost 100 kilograms (220 lb) in weight, 180 centimeters (71 in) long and thick, double fur. Despite their considerable stature, they are considered to be one of the most agile mammals in the world, whose dexterity could be envied by many mountain climbing enthusiasts.

Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Artiodactyla
  • Family: Bovidae
  • Subfamily: Caprinae
  • Tribe: Caprini
  • Genus: Oreamnos
  • Species: Oreamnos americanus
Mountain goat, snow goat, Rocky Mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus)

Mountain goat, snow goat, Rocky Mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus)

The mountain goat (Oreamnos Americanus) mountain goat is the only living species in the genus Oreamnos. The second was Oreamnos harringtoni (extinct 11,000 BC), which was smaller than its modern relative.

Occurrence

Mountain goats live exclusively in North America. The area of their occurrence stretches from Alaska, through Canada, to the states of Washington, Montana and Idaho. They are also present on Kodiak Island, Revillagigedo islands and the Baranof Island.

Environment

Mountain goats are the largest mammals that settle high up in rocky, mountainous areas. Some of them reach heights of 4,000 meters (13,100 ft)and more. Even so, they sometimes descend to sea level in coastal spheres. However, they stay above the tree line all year round – migrating only seasonally to higher or lower parts.

Mountain goat, snow goat, Rocky Mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus)

Characteristic

Both males and females have beards, short tails, and long black horns containing growth rings that increase every year. They are protected against harsh environmental conditions by thick, white wool fur. It forms a mane along the back and thickens in the winter months.

The fur allows the goats to withstand temperatures down to -50℃ (-58℉) and winds of 160 km/h (100 mph).

The goat’s fur consists of two layers. The outer one is thick, coarse and about 20 cm (7.9 in) long. Underneath, there are shorter, 5 cm (2 in) long ones that form thick wool.

Mountain goat, snow goat, Rocky Mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus)

Goat climbing

Mountain goat hooves are perfectly suited for climbing rocky mountain slopes even at an angle of 60 degrees or more. This is due to the split and sharp hoof structure and the soft inner lining that acts as a suction cup. It provides traction and prevents slipping.

Diet

Mountain goats are herbivores and spend most of their time grazing. Their diets include grasses, herbs, ferns, lichens, twigs, and leaves of low shrubs and conifers.

Captive individuals also eat grains, alfalfa, fruit and vegetables.

Mountain goat, snow goat, Rocky Mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus)

Life cycle and parenting

The mating ritual of mountain goats begins around October. The male is able to travel for miles in search of a suitable mate. If he encounters a competitor – the duel begins.

Goats, unlike deer, which fight by tapping each other with their antlers, do not hit each other with their heads due to the fragile structure of the skull. Males stand side to side and sting each other with sharp horns. Thick skin – even 2.5 cm (1 in) on the rump – protects against more serious injuries. It happens, however, that the goat is stabbed in the stomach or neck, which can lead to its death.

Mountain goats are not monogamous, although some males try to keep a female of their choice away from other males.

Gestation lasts 186 days, and one or two young are born, usually at the end of May or the beginning of June. The little mountain goats weigh about 3 kg and start walking and climbing 30 minutes after their birthday.

The young are fed with their mother’s milk for only a month, but they watch her closely all year round.

They reach sexual maturity at the age of 30 months. Mountain goats have a lifespan of 12-15 years, but in the wild, they usually do not live to the age of 12. They can live up to 16-20 years in captivity.

Mountain goat, snow goat, Rocky Mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus)

Predators – threats

The natural environment of mountain goats protects them from many predators. They are mainly hunted by bears, wolves and pumas. The young are often victims of wolverines and eagles.

Aggressive behavior

Female mountain goats are much more aggressive than males. This is due to the fact that male individuals lead a solitary lifestyle or form loose, small groups, and females live in herds of several dozen – mostly young ones.

Therefore, females are not afraid to compete for a wintering place with a larger male. What’s more interesting – they often come out victorious from such a fight.

Use of wool

Mountain goats have never been domesticated to produce wool. Nevertheless, one of the peoples of the northern Pacific coast used fur to weave, which animals shed when spring began.

Mountain goat, snow goat, Rocky Mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus)

Data / Dimensions and weight

Mountain goat, snow goat, Rocky Mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus)

Sexual dimorphism among mountain goats is clearly marked. The male is typically about 30% heavier and larger than the female. He also has longer horns and a beard.

  • Length of the body with the head: 120–179 cm (47–70 in)
  • Tail length: 10–20 cm (3.9–7.9 in)
  • Height at the withers: 90-120 cm (35–47 in)
  • The length of the horns: 15–28 cm (5.9–11 in)
  • Weight: 45 – 140 kg (99 – 310 lb) / males rarely weigh less than 82 kg (180 lb)
  • Lifespan: 12-15 years (up to 20 years in captivity)
Mountain goat, snow goat, Rocky Mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus)

Mountain goats – interesting facts

  • Mountain goats can jump up to a distance of 4 meters.
  • During snowstorms, goats turn their backs to the wind and can stand there for hours, falling into a kind of half-sleep.
  • Females form loose “kindergarten groups” with up to 50 young.
  • The mortality rate of young mountain goats in the first year of life is as high as 70%.
  • At least one case of human death as a result of an attack by a mountain goat is known.
Mountain goat, snow goat, Rocky Mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus)

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