Mountain Goats, NPS photoMountain Goat Juveniles, NPS photoMountain Goat, NPS photo

Dwelling in the rocky cliffs at high elevations throughout the year, the mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus), also known as the Rocky Mountain goat, is well suited for survival in the mountains. With two layers of wool, a dense undercoat covered by an outer layer of long hollow hairs, the species can survive temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit and winds of 100 mph. Specialized cloven hooves with traction-creating inner pads and dewclaws provide sure footing on steep, rocky slopes of up to 60 degrees, beyond the reach of most predators. If threatened, they use their size, agility, and sharp horns to protect themselves. Herbivores with a diet of grasses, herbs, sedges, ferns, moss, lichen, twigs, and even foliage from conifers, mountain goats have the ability to stay in the alpine through the long winter months free from disturbance.

Their suitability for mountain survival, however, may make them more vulnerable to climate change effects. Current research on mountain goats is directed at obtaining baseline data on their survival and pregnancy rates and studying their ability to adapt to changes in their habitat.