Meet the Mountain Goats at Wildwood Zoo!
On November 10th, 2019, the zoo welcomed a pair of Mountain Goat kids from Olympic National Park in Washington. (Tiny) Tom and Ruby were transferred to Wildwood Zoo as the result of a cooperative project among The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Wildwood Park & Zoo, and several other participating zoos. For several years, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has been capturing Mountain Goats in the Olympic Range, where they are non-native, to relocate them to bolster depleted populations within their native Cascade Range. Kids captured during the process have a significantly lower survival rate than juveniles and adults, so instead are placed in zoos such as ours.
Both billy (male) and nanny (female)mountain goats have beards, short tails, and long black horns, 5.9–11.0 inches 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. Mountain goats molt in spring by rubbing against rocks and trees, with the adult billies shedding their extra wool first and the pregnant nannies shedding last. Their coats help them to withstand winter temperatures as low as −50 °F and winds of up to 99 miles per hour. Mountain goats can weigh between 99 and 309 pounds.
The mountain goat's feet are well-suited for climbing steep, rocky slopes with pitches exceeding 60°, with inner pads that provide traction and cloven hooves that can spread apart. The tips of their feet have sharp dewclaws that keep them from slipping. They have powerful shoulder and neck muscles that help propel them up steep slopes.
The mountain goat inhabits the Rocky Mountains and Cascade Range and other mountain regions of the Western Cordillera of North America, from Washington, Idaho and Montana through British Columbia and Alberta, into the southern Yukon and southeastern Alaska. Its northernmost range is said to be along the northern fringe of the Chugach Mountains in southcentral Alaska. Introduced populations can also be found in such areas as Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, South Dakota, and the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.
Mountain goats are the largest mammals found in their high-altitude habitats, which can exceed elevations of 13,000 feet. They sometimes descend to sea level in coastal areas although they are primarily an alpine and subalpine species. The animals usually stay above the tree line throughout the year but they will migrate seasonally to higher or lower elevations within that range. Winter migrations to low-elevation mineral licks often take them several kilometers through forested areas.
Mountain goats reach sexual maturity at about 30 months. Nannies in a herd undergo synchronized estrus in late October through early December, at which time males and females participate in a mating ritual. Mature billies stare at nannies for long periods, dig rutting pits, and fight each other in showy (though occasionally dangerous) scuffles. After the breeding season is over, males and females move away from each other, with the adult billies breaking up into small bands of two or three individuals. Nannies form loose-knit nursery groups of up to 50 animals.
Kids are born in the spring (late May or early June) after a six-month gestation period. Nannies give birth, usually to a single offspring, after moving to an isolated ledge. Kids weigh a little over 6 pounds at birth and begin to run and climb (or attempt to do so) within hours. Although they are mostly weaned within one month, kids follow their mothers closely for the first year of life (or until the nanny gives birth again, if this does not occur the next breeding season); nannies protect their young by leading them out of danger, standing over them when faced by predators, and positioning themselves below their kids on steep slopes to stop freefalls.
In captivity: 16-20 years
In human care: 12-15 years
Mountain goats are herbivores and spend most of their time grazing. Their diets include grasses, herbs, sedges, ferns, mosses, lichens, and twigs and leaves from the low-growing shrubs and conifers of their high-altitude habitat.