Why CrankyGoat™

Mountain Goat Facts

The Mountain Goat is perhaps the epitome of sustainable living - frugal in the extreme sense; able to use the harshest terrain and survive; versatile and adaptable. It does little / no harm to its natural environment and, in many ways, actually enriches the harsh terrain it calls home. Mountain goats were not described in the scientific literature until 1816 and remain one of the least-studied large mammals in North America. According to recent estimates, the number of Mountain Goats in North America has historically varied from about 75,000 to 100,000. This number includes the largest population of just over 50,000 in British Columbia to 15,000 in the western states, 10,000 to 25,000 in Alaska, and small numbers in Alberta, Yukon, and Mackenzie Territory. 

In British Columbia, these goats may be found in most mountain ranges except for those on Vancouver Island, the Queen Charlottes, and other coastal islands. They exhibit a wide tolerance for climatic conditions, from tidewater along coastal inlets to the Continental Divide and from the arid Similkameen valley to the Yukon border. Though mostly confined to prominent mountain ranges, some Mountain Goats may also be found along river canyons cut through plateaus – for example, the Stikine Canyon.  More specifically, mountain goats are more numerous in the Northwest part of the province, but substantial populations occur throughout the main chain of the Rockies and in the Coast, Cariboo, Selkirk and Purcell ranges.

The shaggy white Mountain Goat (Oreamnos americanus) is in many respects a truly peculiar beast. This muscular, plodding mountaineer is a product of the Pleistocene ice age whose snowy colour makes it well adapted for escaping detection in wintry landscapes. No other hoofed mammal in North America, and few outside it, are so superbly adapted to steep terrain and severe winters. Though often called a “goat-antelope,” it is neither. It has no close relatives in North America, and its closest kin in Europe and Asia are not very similar. British Columbia is the heartland of Mountain Goats and contains more than half of the world’s population. But because of its lofty, remote haunts, it is the least familiar of our hoofed mammals (ungulates).

However, humankind’s encroachment on its habitat, destructive environmental behaviours and senseless need for trophy killing are but a few good reasons for this goat to be cranky ... and is a microcosmic example of the horrible footprint mankind is leaving on Mother Earth.  Do a simple google search for Mountain Goats in British Columbia and for every one website providing factual information and conservation proposals for this magnificent mammal, you will find ten websites promoting the sport hunting and exploitation of this ecologically fragile species!

Depressing? You can choose to ignore the world environmental issues all you want - but that will not make it go away. The planet needs a rest from our incessant greed and rampant human population growth. We, humanity, simply need to grow up and take better responsibility as caretakers of our truly beautiful yet surprisingly fragile ecosystem we call planet Earth! Does this sound like preaching to you? Perhaps, but unless people speak out - no voices will be heard! 

That is why we choose CrankyGoat™ as our online persona. We may be mere drops in a bucket, but if enough people speak out and take action than all these "mere drops" will fill up the bucket and produce positive long term results. 

CrankyGoat™ is our avatar - an embodiment of the magnificent Mountain Goats of British Columbia and the cruel ecological fate that awaits them unless "humanity" steps forward and truly makes an altruistic and world altering difference.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

Mountain Goat - Basic Facts

The Mountain Goat (Oreamnos americanus), also known as the Rocky Mountain Goat, is a large-hoofed mammal found only in North America. Despite its name, it is not a true goat, as it belongs to a different genus. It resides at high elevations and is a sure-footed climber, often resting on rocky cliffs that predators cannot reach. The mountain goat is an even-toed ungulate of the order Artiodactyla and the family Bovidae that includes antelopes and cattle. It belongs to the subfamily Caprinae, along with thirty-two other species including true goats, sheep, the chamois and the musk ox. The mountain goat is the only species in the genus Oreamnos. The name Oreamnos is derived from the Greek term oros (stem ore-) 'mountain' (or, alternatively, oreas 'mountain nymph') and the word amnos 'lamb'.

Mountain Goat society consists of relatively small bands that change in composition frequently. These bands interact daily, often antagonistically. Except during the mating season, nannies live apart from the billies with their kids and yearlings, but often not far away. Nannie groups, also called nursery bands, usually average about four or five, but many increase to 15 to 20 or more after kidding. Billies often live alone or in groups of two to four. Both groups have a well-developed dominance hierarchy or pecking order based on size, strength, and experience. Goats are not territorial in the sense of defending an exclusive piece of habitat, but they defend a small personal space around them.

Most females breed for the first time when they are two years old. After a gestation period of six months, nannies retire to secluded, precipitous ledges to give birth to their 3 kg kids in late May or early June. A single birth is the rule, and up to 40 percent of mature nannies may not produce any offspring. Twins are rare. Goat kids start to climb within a few hours and follow their mothers across broken terrain within four or five days. They suckle often in the first few days but soon begin to graze on tender plants. After four months, they nurse infrequently. Goat mothers are exceedingly attentive, and the mother-infant bond is strong until the next kid is born.

Mountain Goats keep growing in size until they are about four years old and seldom live longer than 12 years. Forty to sixty percent of kids die in their first winter, and many yearlings also die in their second winter, probably from starvation. Accidental losses from falls and avalanches are more significant for goats than for other ungulates, but they are not a major limiting factor. Predators like wolves and cougars occasionally ambush an unwary stray goat, and eagles knock a few kids from cliffs. But because of their alertness, preference for steep terrain, and ability to use their horns against would-be attackers, goats are less susceptible to predation than most big game animals.

In British Columbia, Mountain Goats occur in both wet and dry regions and at various elevations, but the terrain is always steep. Coastal and interior goats usually remain at low elevations in spring in order to take advantage of the earliest flush of green vegetation. As spring progresses into summer, they follow the development of new growth upward, taking advantage of its most nutritious early stages. In summer and early fall, most goats graze at and above the timberline, where they favour lush alpine swales and boulder meadows beside steep cliffs. Some may migrate a few kilometres between winter-spring and summer ranges, but many seasonal migrations are just local shifts in elevation.

Most winter ranges are steep sites that shed snow and have a warm south to west exposure. Along the coast, winter ranges are invariably at low elevations because at high elevations, the deep, heavy snow is not readily blown away to expose forage and because near sea level, snow is much shallower in depth or even absent. Goats often winter on cliffs that rise directly from the beach. In the interior, where snow is usually shallower and drier and high winds are frequent, goats winter on cliffs at varying elevations, including high windswept ridge crests. In mid- to late winter the snow at high elevations often develops a firm crust because of strong winds and cycles of thawing and freezing. This allows the goats to walk on top of the snow and travel more widely in search of food.

Goats can’t afford to be choosy about what they eat because their foraging sites tend to be widely dispersed, small in size, and sparsely vegetated. They survive by eating a wide variety of plants, including lichens, ferns, grasses, herbs, shrubs, and deciduous or coniferous trees. The Mountain Goat has successfully adapted to a narrow, extreme niche where it can avoid competition from other herbivores and predation by large carnivores. Goats share their lofty haunts amicably with a few non-threatening alpine specialists like marmots, pikas, and ground squirrels, but few predators can negotiate goat terrain!

No other hoofed animal in North America is so versatile.

Description - The Mountain Goat, a blunt, square-looking animal has a narrow head with slender, black, shiny horns rising in a backward curve to a length of 10-12 inches. The coat is white and on the chin is a double beard of long hair. Weighing an average of 150-300 pounds and reaching heights of 35-45 inches, the mountain goat is sure-footed and agile due to its hooves with cushioned skid-proof pads for grip.

Both male and female mountain goats have beards, short tails, and long black horns, 15-28 cm in length, which contain yearly growth rings. They are protected from the elements by their woolly white double coats. The fine, dense wool of their undercoats is covered by an outer layer of longer, hollow hairs. In warmer seasons, mountain goats moult by rubbing against rocks and trees, with the adult Billies (males) shedding their extra wool first and the pregnant nannies (females) shed last. In the winter, their coats help them to withstand temperatures as low as -50 Fahrenheit (-46 Celsius) and winds of up to 100 mph (161 km/h). In the wild, mountain goats usually live twelve to fifteen years, with their lifespan limited by the wearing down of their teeth.

Billy stands about one meter (3'3") at the shoulder to the waist. Male goats also have longer horns and a longer beard than nannies. Mountain goats typically weigh between 45 and 136 kg (100 - 300 lb.); females are usually 10-30% lighter than males. The mountain goat's feet are well-suited for climbing steep, rocky slopes, sometimes with pitches of 60 degrees or more, with inner pads that provide traction and cloven hooves that can spread apart as needed. Dewclaws on the back of their feet also help to keep them from slipping.

Biology - This mountain goat feeds on alpine grasses and flowers to almost any tree and shrub. The rutting season occurs between November and early January and the young (often twins) is born in May or June. The greatest cause of death for these mountain dwellers is accidents and in the winter when the availability of food is decreased, they are more susceptible to disease, parasites, predators and accidents. 

Distribution - The mountain goat lives in rocky mountainous areas above the timberline throughout parts of North America. British Columbia's population is by far the largest at over 50,000.

First Nations people, especially on the coast, have made use of goat products for eons. They ate goat meat, made ceremonial spoons and other implements from the horns, and wove blankets and rugs from the fur. Some coastal people still do this kind of weaving. Interior tribes reputedly fashioned the incredibly thick hide of the goat’s flank into armour for deflecting arrows.

Even though native people hunted Mountain Goats, they did so with an innate sense of ecological balance and these goats remained abundant until the first Europeans arrived.  Then, due to unregulated hunting, particularly in the 1940's through till mid 1980's, the magnificent Mountain Goat was nearly hunted to extinction - mainly by trophy hunters who have no other reason for killing this beautiful mammal other than to say they did!

Between 1950 and 1975, hunting seriously reduced British Columbia's goat population. This was a period of great expansion for logging, mining, and other access roads that vastly improved access for hunters (and poachers) to remote valleys. During that era, an increase in the number of hunters and the introduction of liberal hunting regulations resulted in overall declines in the number of goats in the lower mainland, the east Kootenay, and the south Peace regions and a few other locations. Sport hunting for goats is more difficult to manage than hunting for most other big game species because goats are visible, unwary, and vulnerable when in cliffy terrain (a shamelessly easy kill for so-called sport hunters). Goats have a low reproductive rate and do not readily repopulate ranges after they have been removed. Also, because all adult goats have similar sized horns, the establishment of male-only hunting seasons is impractical.

Current CONSERVATION Practices in British Columbia

Fortunately, the unregulated and unscrupulous killing of Mountain Goats has largely been stopped and strict hunting regulations are now in place. Mountains Goat are widespread, numerous, and stable in most areas of the province, they are not considered at risk and have been included in the 1998 Yellow List by the BC Conservation Data Centre.  UNFORTUNATELY, this has allowed our provincial government to justify the unnecessary practice of trophy hunting for these, and many other beautiful and vulnerable animals, based on the unenlightened rationale that it generates revenue for the provincial coffers!

The long term ecological security of Mountain Goats is partly due to their preference for rugged, remote habitats. This has shielded them from developments that have harmed many other wildlife species – land settlement, competition from livestock, highways, logging, and hydroelectric reservoirs. Mining disturbance has had an effect on localized sites, and logging can affect coastal Mountain Goat winter ranges as well as the fringes of interior goat winter ranges and low-elevation licks. In general, the places goats choose are not in high demand for other uses. However, unintended harassment of goats by helicopters has been a concern, particularly during the kidding season and in winter when the animals are in the poorest condition. Snowmobiles are also a concern in some areas. Changing travel routes and careful scheduling of disturbing activities can resolve these problems.

Some goat populations depend on winter ranges where wildfires create early seral vegetation. In recent years, forest fire control has made many of those habitats less productive for goats. Allowing some wildfires to run their course and enhancing goat range through prescribed burning would help the recovery of goat populations. Future needs also include regular monitoring of goat numbers, careful control of hunting and poaching, continued protection of habitat, and possibly some reintroduction of goats into previously occupied ranges. In addition, controlling of helicopter flights, motor vehicle access, snowmobiles, and human recreational activities may be necessary in some locations.

Approximately one half of the world’s mountain goats are found in British Columbia, therefore the province has a global responsibility to ensure their long-term existence. Many view mountain goats as an iconic species, symbolizing rugged mountains and true wilderness. Mountain goats are a valued species, having social, cultural and economic value to First Nations for ceremonial use and as a source of food and clothing.
These measures, and a little 'humane' respect, should ensure the future of the Mountain Goat, truly one of British Columbia’s most unusual mammals.

  • No larger mammal on earth lives at higher elevations! 
  • The Rocky Mountain goat remains the least studied large mammal in North America. 
  • The closest living relative is the European Chamois
  • The Rocky Mountain goat can stand on a ledge the size of a paperback book and can even turn around on it! 
  • Both adults have long hair under their throat forming a characteristic "beard". 
  • Despite its name, it is not a true goat, as it belongs to a different genus. 
  • The mountain goat is the only species in the genus Oreamnos .
  • The name Oreamnos is derived from the Greek term oros (stem ore-) 'mountain' (or, alternatively, oreas 'mountain nymph') and the word amnos 'lamb'.

Getting Your Goat?

It began as American slang, apparently early in the 20th century. H. L. Mencken writes in American Language (1945) of being told that the saying originated with the practice of horse racers often placing a goat in the stall with a nervous horse. The horse soon becomes accustomed to having the goat there and finds it comforting. The horse becomes less nervous and is not so easily upset. If a rival owner can steal or "get" this goat, then the horse gets nervous and upset and is likely to loose the race. In any event, the first recorded appearance of the expression in print is in Christy Mathewson's Pitching in a Pinch (1912): "Then Lobert stopped at third with a mocking smile which would have gotten the late Job's goat."

The Urban Dictionary Definition
  • Basic Definition: To annoy you to the point of getting pissed.
  • Sub Definition: The goat is a metaphor for your state of peacefulness. When your goat is with you, you are calm and collected. When your goat is stolen, you become angry and upset. 

Please Take Note:
Getting someone's goat can not be a quick process and must be done by not being directly mean. The best way to get someone's goat is by means of clever annoyance...
  • BC's Official Mountain Goat Management Plan

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