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Goats in Glacier

April 8, 2021

Goats in Glacier

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Eric Januszkiewicz Eric Januszkiewicz

For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus). Being a rock climber myself, perhaps it has something to do with my fascination in their incredible climbing abilities. They can scale near-vertical rock surfaces with ease.

Most hoofed animals have a hard, outer surface surrounding their hooves, however, mountain goats do not. Instead, the entire surface of their hooves is soft and leathery which actually helps enhance contact and friction between their hooves and the rock surface. It is essentially as though they are wearing climbing shoes. This, in combination with their ability to leap distances of up to 12 feet both vertically and horizontally, allows them to avoid most predators with ease.

On my second trip to Glacier National Park in Montana, I was determined to see my first mountain goat. I chose a specific trail to hike that was known for sightings of them. I was trying not to get my hopes up as I have been in great mountain goat territory before but had yet to see one. Little did I know, I was about to have one of my best goat-spotting days ever.

As I made my way up the trail, I was elated to realize there was a mountain goat less than 20 yards ahead of me on the trail. I leaped in the air in excitement and nearly forgot I was on a public trail with lots of people. I forced myself to regain my composure. I stood and stared at this goat for as long as I could. I couldn’t believe it; I had finally seen my first mountain goat.

As the day went on, I continued to see other mountain goats all along that trail. I spent the majority of the day on a short trail that would normally take only a fraction of a morning to hike.

It was such a magical day for me that I will never forget.

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