Yesterday I took a walk along the plateau above the Clarks Fork ravine. The edge is a sheer 1000′ drop tot he river below. I sat and glassed for the mountain goats that I’d heard ‘hung’ around the cliff edges. Almost ready to give up, I suddenly saw a small white dot that looked like snow. I watched it a while and it moved like a white ant. Pretty soon there were a dozen of these small white dots coming in and out of the trees, hanging on cliff edges that you and I wouldn’t dream of going near. All I could think of was …”I wanna be a mountain goat!” Looked like lots of fun, especially to a person like me whose afraid of heights.
The mountain goat controversy remains strong. Like the fallow and axis deer in Point Reyes that the National Seashore wants to shoot and get rid of, Yellowstone wants to get rid of them. They are an ‘invasive’ around here, planted by sportsmen for the hunt. But unlike the Fallow deer which are not from this continent (from India), Rocky Mountain mountain goats do inhabit the high elevations of Montana, Idaho, Colorado, and further north. Very few prehistoric traces of mountain goats have been seen in these parts, and first hand accounts are few.
Personally, I like them and like seeing them around, especially considering that they are native to areas west of the Park. It is not inconceivable that they once were around the Absarokas and Beartooths. That is completely unlike the Fallow deer, which were bought from the San Francisco Zoo in the ’40’s and introduced. Apparently Rocky Mountain mountain goats were introduced into the Cascades, far out of their native range, with very detrimental effects.
I’m all for eliminating invasive species that ravage the ecosystem and compete with the resources of the natives. But as long as they are not competing too much with Bighorn forage, I wouldn’t mind keeping them around. They were a thrill to see. Gotta figure out a way to get a closer look.