Source: D4K: “Mountain Goats"
Visit the D4K companion Web site to learn more about Mountain Goats: D4K: “Mountain Goats"
In this video segment from IdahoPTV's D4K you get a glimpse of the life of a mountain goat on high rocky peaks. Discover the special adaptations that allows them to survive in that habitat in summer and in winter.
[JOAN CARTAN-HANSEN] Sheer craggy cliffs stretch skyward to rocky peaks forming a home carved from granite. This is their habitat. Food, water, shelter and space. Few other animals can move around so easily in these rugged rocky peaks.
It's their key to survival because here in this difficult terrain they can avoid competition from other animals that would eat the same foods. And the clear view from a mountain peak makes it difficult for a predator to surprise a wild goat. They also blend well with this habitat. From a distance they appear to be a large boulder or snow bank merging with their surrounding. Until they move they're difficult to see.
The male's horns are much thicker at the base and sweep up into an arch. The female's horns have less bulk and hook about 3 inches from the end. Horn and hoof are the mountain goat's security. Few animals have the dexterity to climb the sheer precarious face of a mountain. The center of a mountain goat's hoof is very soft and spongy. These pads can grip the surface of rocks working somewhat like a suction cup.
It makes it look easy for the mountain goat to climb nearly straight up and down a peak. These adaptations make it possible for mountain goats to live on the roof of the world. In addition to keeping the species relatively safe from predators it also allows them to like in a place where they have very little competition from other large animals like elk and moose. The wild goats don't have to share the limited grasses and shrubs that grow at these high elevations and this can be critical in winter months. Once the snow blankets the high country the deer and elk travel to lower elevations but the mountain goats stays seeking habitat too severe for these other animals. The wild goats look for areas that shed snow, then feed on whatever is available - shrubs, grasses, fir trees, even lichen if necessary. A harsh winter or a poor food supply can result in a high death rate for young animals.
During this time goats tend to gather in small groups of three and four that stay in one place. It appears they survive these harsh conditions by remaining relatively still and conserving energy rather than looking extensively for food.
The world of the mountain goat seems magical perched high above the earth on craggy cliffs of the northern rocky mountains. It's a difficult place to live but for the mountain goat it has everything the animal requires - food, water, shelter and space. And one incredible view.
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