Species and Plant Community
Accounts for Identified Wildlife

Table of contents

MOUNTAIN GOAT (Oreamnos americanus)


Mountain goats are considered to be REGIONALLY IMPORTANT because they require older age class forests for winter cover.


Mountain goats are usually found in the most rugged mountainous areas of steep cliffs and rock bluffs, narrow ledges, rocky canyons, talus and rock slopes. They are considered non-migratory although there is often a vertical movement from high elevation summer ranges to lower elevations during winter. Suitable feeding areas border rough, steep escape terrain. Goats rarely move more than 400 m from this terrain except to visit mineral licks. In summer, diet consists of alpine and sub-alpine grasses, sedges, rushes and forbs. In winter, the grass/forb component of their diet is supplemented or even replaced by a variety of shrubs as well as conifers such as Douglas-fir, alpine fir, several pine species or juniper. Mosses and lichens are important for coastal populations in winter but are less important for interior populations. Natural mineral licks provide calcium, manganese, phosphorous and sodium, particularly during the spring and early summer. Mountain goats are considered moderately gregarious. In summer, females and kids may congregate in groups of 20-30. Adult males remain alone or gather together in small, loose aggregations. Breeding occurs in November and females give birth to their young in approximately 7 months. Ideally, kidding occurs on protected ledges in steep, rocky escape terrain with food and water near-by. Mountain goats are not territorial. Home ranges vary, depending on the degree of seasonal movement (tagged goats in Olympic National Park, USA are known to have made seasonal movements of up to 16 km).


Mountain goats occur throughout much of the Rocky Mountains from the 49th parallel to the Yukon border, the Cassiar Mountains in north-central British Columbia, the Cariboo Mountains of the upper Fraser River system, the Purcell, Selkirk and Monashee Mountains of south-east British Columbia and the Coast Mountains from the lower Fraser River to the extreme northwest portion of the province.

Ecoprovinces: Ecosections

Biogeoclimatic units

Habitat requirements

Broad ecosystem units

Structural stage

1: non-vegetated (escape terrain)
2: herb (summer foraging)
6: mature forest (winter foraging and thermal cover)
7: old forest (winter foraging and thermal cover)



Critical habitats and habitat features

Habitat preferences are tied to escape terrain: steep, rocky bluffs and cliffs. These areas can only produce limited forage, thus, undisturbed forage sites adjacent to the escape terrain are critical. Many wintering goats find forage and thermal cover within open, old growth or mature forests. If there is suitable cover nearby, goats may benefit substantially from burned or logged openings both during the winter and summer.

Selected references

Foster, B. 1982. Observability and habitat characteristics of the mountain goat
(Oreamnos americanus) in west-central British Columbia. Univ. B.C., Vancouver, B.C. MSc thesis.

Fox, J. and C. Smith. 1988. Winter mountain goat diets in southeast Alaska. J. Wildl.
Manage. 52(2):362-365.

Gilbert, B. and K. Raedeke. 1992. Winter habitat selection of mountain goats in the North
Tolt and Mine Creek drainages of the north central Cascades. In Bienn. Symp. North. Wild Sheep and Goat Counc., J. Emmerich and W. Hepworth (eds.). Wyoming Game and Fish Dep., Thermopolis, WY. 8:305-324.

McFetridge, R. 1977. Strategy of resource use by mountain goats in Alberta. Univ.
Alberta, Edmonton, AB. MSc thesis.

Schoen, J. and M. Kirchhoff. 1982. Habitat use by mountain goats in southeast Alaska.
Alaska Dep. Fish and Game, Juneau, AK. Final rep., Job 12.4R.

Schoen, J., M. Kirchhoff and O. Wallmo. 1980. Winter habitat use by mountain goats.
Alaska Dep. Fish and Game, Juneau, AK. Vol. III, Proj. Prog. Rep.

Stevens, V. 1983. The dynamics of dispersal in an introduced mountain goat population.
U. Wash., Seattle, WA. PhD dissertation.

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