Mountain Goats

RED LODGE POST

Bring binoculars. Mountain goats hang out in high elevation, mountainous regions of Montana. The Montana FWP estimates that 5,900 mountain goats live in the state. Of the total, thirty-eight per cent are found in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.

Viewing mountains goats is easy, finding them is another matter. Mountain goats are not seen ambling along regular roadways as is commonly the case with other wildlife such as bears, buffalo, and elk. Go explore the backcountry is the best advice for finding mountain goats in their preferred habitat.

mountain goat
Mountain goat. Photo courtesy Mike Williams Photography (Missoula). mikewillamsphotography dot com.

Given the large number of mountain goats in Glacier National Park, this may be a good place to go to see one of these magnificent animals. While mountain goats like to stay at higher elevations in the mountains, in Glacier they are often seen wandering on the park’s many trails.

Amy Grisak, a writer for the Great Falls Tribune, describes the best places to go for viewing mountain goats in Glacier National Park. A few hot spots are: Goat Lick along U.S. Highway 2 near Essex in the early season; Logan Pass; Sperry Trail and Gunsight Pass in the western part of the park; and in the area around Many Glacier, the eastern part of the park. At Many Glacier, mountain goats can be viewed high on cliffs above Iceberg Trail and along Ptarmigan Tunnel.

More mountain goats make their home in the cliffs and canyons of the Bitterroot Mountains south of Missoula. In a recent census, a Montana FWP biologist, Rebecca Moray, counted 13 mountain goats in Blodgett Canyon and even more goats in nearby canyons, says Perry Backus in the Missoulian. The Bitterroots are a rugged and wild region, so finding mountain goats here might be hard to do.

Closer to civilization, near Helena, a small number of mountain goats live in the Big Belt Mountains east of the city. Tourists on guided boat tours on the Missouri River through an area called Gates of the Mountains, a large canyon, can sometimes view mountain goats feeding high above the canyon’s walls.

Mountain goats are not usually on people’s radar. Nevertheless, they are a delight to see in the wild. You need some imagination to understand how the goats can climb, even run, on high, treacherous mountain cliffs. This is one of the mysteries that create so much interest in viewing mountain goats.

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