Yellowstone Mountain Goats: Officially Unwelcome, Unofficially Pretty Neat

Yellowstone Mountain Goats

Yellowstone Mountain Goats

One of the rarest animals to see in Yellowstone is the mountain goat. And park rangers would like to keep it that way. The park’s official stance is that mountain goats are an introduced, invasive species and they’ll get rid of them if they have to in order to protect the native bighorn sheep.

But, they’re still pretty cool to see. The 100 or so mountain goats in the park are mainly found up north near Mammoth Hot Springs. We got to see a family of four on the cliffs overlooking the road down from Gardiner. It was probably what’s known as a “nursery group,” that is a mother (nanny) and kids. The adult had horns, but in mountain goats both sexes do. Greater-Yellowstone says you can find them near Sepulcher Mountain, Upper Barronette Peak or Bliss Pass inside the park or outside it on Beartooth Scenic Highway or trails in Swan Valley, ID.

Greater Yellowstone Science says the park’s mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) are descended from those introduced in Montana in the 1940s for hunting. It was part of the old guard thinking in wildlife management: the purpose is to produce more fun hunting. Now the pendulum has swung towards trying to recreate an ecosystem from some mythical pre-white man time and so wildlife managers want to get rid of the goats. The mountain goat  is native to the area west of the Rockies, so I’m not sure how much a fine point they’re putting on its non-native status.

The goats seem to be expanding their range. A few have even been spotted down in the  Grand Tetons (seven in 2009, the JHNewsandGuide reports.) and even as far away as the Wind River Range. In Colorado and Washington, wildlife officials have killed off some goats, though the public doesn’t like that and has sometimes sued to stop it. The Denver Post says that the big worry is that mountain goats are more aggressive than bighorn sheep and may reduce their numbers.

Where to See Wildlife in Yellowstone

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3 comments to Yellowstone Mountain Goats: Officially Unwelcome, Unofficially Pretty Neat

  • JD

    Those are bighorn sheep in your picture, the ones that hang out between mammoth and gardiner. Mountain goats are white, and are most commonly seen towards Cooke City, on the cliffs of Baronett Peak, for example

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