Finding the Mountain Goats in Jasper National Park

Who are these mountain goats and where can you find them in Jasper National Park?

Mountain goats are Jasper’s amazing climbers with their large, semi-soft hooves, giving them traction to climb steep mountainsides away from predators and tourists alike. Mountain goats like the cold alpine and sub-alpine climates, making the mountainsides of Jasper National Park a suitable place for Billy to call home.

“Mountain goats inhabit a vertical world of windswept cliffs and rocky crags…that are difficult for most humans to access.” [1]

Mountain Goat grazing

What Charles Hewitt said of Canadian mountain goats back in 1921 is a perfect description for animals. Mountain goats “combine remarkable steadiness of nerve with agility and sure-footedness on the most precipitous and inaccessible rock faces, and in rock-climbing are the most expert of all American hoofed animals, with more apparent than real stupidity, and great deliberation on occasions when it is least expected.” [2]

Where can visitors see mountain goats?

Wise Old Mr. Mountain GoatAccording to Parks Canada [3], mountain goats “can often be seen at the Mount Kerkeslin ‘Goat Lick’ viewpoint on the Icefields Parkway and Disaster Point on Highway 16 east.”

Mountains goats like to graze on low-lying vegetation like grasses, ferns and various herbs and other vegetation that grows near the salt licks. Salt licks are another favorite mountain goat snack.

The Icefields Parkway viewpoint has a parking area and picnic tables where humans are known to graze. This makes a nice break when driving from Jasper town-site to and from the glaciers. Stop here and maybe the goats will be out.

Whether or not mountain goats are visible depends on the time of day and the season.

“Mountain Goats tend to form large groups during the winter and at salt licks in the spring, but they form smaller groups or are solitary in the summer. They are active from sunrise to mid-day and again at dusk.” (Ellis 1999 [4])

Mountain goats are also known to head to higher elevations in the summer and scamper down to lower elevations during the winter.

Researchers find the mountain goats

Mountain goat and kid taking a restResearch studies are continuously conducted on the mountain goat populations in Alberta, Canada and throughout North America (animals do not have political boundaries) to aid in species population management.

For example, a 2003 research report [5] was based on 29 years of mountain goat population surveys and measured the effects of hunting on 12 mountain goat herds in Alberta north and west of Jasper National Park . Researches used aerial surveys to find the mountain goat herds. The study counted an average of 47 mountain goats per herd.

Seven of the mountain goat herds had populations slightly reduced by hunting until 1987 when hunting was no longer allowed. The study found that “herd-specific factors other than hunting appeared to affect population dynamics of mountain goats.”

Accidents, poaching and disease were speculated to be unlikely causes, though these things do happen. Even the sure-footed mountain goat can slip on the ice, so they are very calculated in the winter and during icy conditions in Jasper National Park. Predation by wolves, grizzly bears and cougars was speculated to be a factor in the change in the population of certain herds.

Researchers in the state of Washington [6] are using a different method to track mountain goats: GPS. GPS (Global Positioning System) units are tracking daily movements of over 30 mountain goats. The specially made GPS tracking sensors were placed in the enclosures on a collar around the necks of the mountain goats (learn more).

Mountain Goat shedding his coat for springReadings are taken frequently so researchers can better understand migration patterns. Prior to the study, the researchers had little idea as to the whereabouts in winter of mountain goats in the Cascade Mountains in Washington, United States, not all that far from Alberta, Canada. This research will help wildlife managers in their efforts to identify and preserve mountain goat habitats.

An early progress report from the state of Washington study [7] had suggested some correlations between mountain goat age and habitat range, though more analysis will be done in the future. Older males appeared to move around very little whereas younger males had a wide range. Adult female mountain goat movement varies depending on level of isolation in the habitat. With a broader habitat, there is more movement.

Find the Mountain Goats right now

Mountain Goats 2 - Near the Salt-Lick
JimmyJames84

References

[1] Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, “Scientists seek clues to mountain goat decline”, Fish & Wildlife, January 2004. Accessed December 24, 2006 at http://wdfw.wa.gov/science/…
[2] Charles Gordon Hewitt. The Conservation of the Wild Life of Canada. 1921. Charles Scribner’s & Sons.
[3] Parks Canada, Jasper National Park, “Natural Wonders and Cultural Treasures.” Accessed December 16, 2006 at http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/jasper/…
[4] Ellis, E. 1999. “Oreamnos americanus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 16, 2006 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/….
[5] Gonzalez Voyer, A., Smith, K.G. & Festa-Bianchet, M. 2003: Dynamics of hunt-
ed and unhunted mountain goat Oreamnos americanus populations. – Wildl. Biol. 9: 213-218.
[6] Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, “Scientists seek clues to mountain goat decline”, Fish & Wildlife, January 2004. Accessed December 24, 2006 at http://wdfw.wa.gov/science/…
[7] Rice, C.G., “Mountain Goat Research in the Washington Cascade Mountains – Progress Report”, December 10, 2003, Access December 24, 2006 at http://wdfw.wa.gov/science/…

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7 comments to Finding the Mountain Goats in Jasper National Park

  • National parks and nature reserves are beautiful places that need to be preserved worldwide. They are the only hope for protecting the majority of the plants and animals in the world. These areas need park rangers to protect them. In developing countries, the majority of the national parks lack park rangers, while the most limiting factor in conservation worldwide is the shortage of rangers. We have estimated a ranger deficit of more than 100,000 in developing countries. Currently no government or conservation organization in the world addresses this problem. That is why the Adopt A Ranger Foundation has been created: http://www.adopt-a-ranger.org

    Help us spread the cause by visiting the Adopt A Ranger website and leaving a message on your parks forum at: http://www.birdlist.org/phpbb and posting some of your pictures of national parks at: http://www.nature-worldwide.info/phpbb. You can also visit my blog at: http://naturalplaces.blogspot.com/ or our informative website http://www.birdlist.org

    By allowing this comment on your site, you help us promote conservation!

  • […] from land for commercial development. Now Maryland has got the goat ideafor lawn mowing, that is.Finding the Mountain Goats in Jasper National Park Jasper …Who are these mountain goats and where can you find them in Jasper National Park? Mountain goats are […]

  • I love the comment above me! Haha, I love goats too, and if I ever get to visit the park I’ll make sure I stop off at the ‘Goat Lick’ viewpoint.

  • Mountain goats are such amazing creators, they are amazing climbers they have semi-soft hooves, giving them a grip to climb steep mountainsides away from predators and tourists alike.

  • The mountain goats look lovely and a bit funny as well. (I remember that I have seen a picture of goats standing on tree, tall ones.) Anyway, since I like animals and nature I liked to observe the images here and read the interesting article, good job.

  • Mountain goats are fascinating creatures in Jasper National Park. It is true they are expert climbers even our rock climbers cannot compete with them. The pictures posted here are so beautiful. thanks for the nice post.