A Summer 2015 Yukon Prospector Web Extra
One of the main predators of the mountain goat is the golden eagle.
With a wingspan that can get up to almost 6 feet, these glorious creatures are able to actually pick up some goats and release them to a squishy doom. The goats are especially vulnerable when they’re young, which many of them are between mid-May and mid-June.
With this in mind, I set out to view the mountain goats on White Mountain, about an hour south of Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway. I’d hoped to see Mother Nature show its brutal side. To catch a glimpse of life’s rawest ebb and flow.
Instead I learned about goats.
"I’d hoped to see Mother Nature show its brutal side. To catch a glimpse of life’s rawest ebb and flow. Instead I learned about goats."
Not to be confused with sheep. Sheep have the big curly horns. They’re the jocks of the party, bashing heads and crushing 6 packs of Pils while trying to get a bit of that sheep tail. They hang out on the bottom rungs of the mountain, and you see them all the time. Anyone can see a sheep. Sheep are so meeeAAAAAAHHHH.
Goats are the upper echelon, quite literally. They get high up in the Alpine territory. And they don’t use their pointy horns for rudimentary head butting. They will strait up stab a fool. During the sexy season they’ll actually pick and gore each other to win the right to forcibly inseminate the fairer of the species. Now THAT’S evolution.
They’re also notoriously hard to spot and track, as most of them hide when they see aircraft (see above comment about eagles).
I found the goat viewing spot through the Yukon government’s Wild Discoveries program. On June 2, they hosted the “Are you kidding” tour, where a guide took a few revelers to spy on the might mountain goats. At the helm of the operation was Scott Cameron, one of two people who basically gets to look at animals for a living.
It shows. Scott’s a pretty calm dude, and it’s obvious he loves his job. As he was showing around a few goat skulls, pointing out the differences between male and female goats, notes of excitement would creep into his voice.
It turns out its quite hard to figure out what sex a goat is. Male horns will be thicker at the base, with a gentle curve throughout, while female horns sort of sweep at the end. The differences are negligible at best.
Speaking of horns, you can also tell how old a goat is by looking at its horns. They get rings like trees do. The horns don’t grow as steadily in the winter due to a lack of nourishment, so a pattern emerges.
It’s odd that I actually enjoyed going on this tour. Even without witnessing some Lord of the Rings-esque confrontation. I mean, all we really did is look at goats... Maybe I’m getting old.
Scott helped; guys a faucet for goat-knowledge.
Did you know goats have toe-like hooves that can move independently of one another? It’s true! The hooves even act like a suction cup when pressure is applied, letting them climb up cliff faces. Go goats!
Scott said that goats are most comfortable in “escape terrain”. This means when you think you have them cornered, they’re right where they want to be. The females will even birth kids near escape terrain.
My escape terrain is 3 feet from a vehicle I have keys too. Otherwise I’m toast.
Ironically, the nature we were viewing wasn’t entirely natural. Well, it was extra-natural maybe.
See, historically there were goats on White Mountain. A fine herd of good goats that lived by the land. Then we built a highway by White Mountain, and hunted them to extinction.
So back in the 90’s they decided they should put some goats back there. Scott said one of the main reasons was so people could see them. Yeah, we killed all the goats, then went and uprooted a bunch of other goats, so we could have the privilege of viewing them in the place where we originally destroyed
Scott explains that process in the video below.
Now there’s a community of about 30 goats on the mount said Scott, and there population is on the rise. Although you can’t really tell with those sneaky bovidae.
If you want to check them out, they are at km 7.8 on the road to Atlin. After mid-June, feel free to hike right about the mountain side. Otherwise, bring a nice scope and a pair of binoculars. They can be fairly hard to spot. Y
The Wild Discoveries program runs all through the summer. More information can be found here.
And if this article didn’t staunch your thirst for goat knowledge, there’s a pdf from the BC government here.