Thursday, December 16, 2010

HOOFED MAMMALS: Mountain Goat Stories

I love Mountain Goats! Let's start with what amazing climbers they are. Their feet are well suited for climbing steep rocky slopes with pitches of more than 60 degrees. In fact, in the photo below it almost looks like a 90 degree pitch. Their feet have inner pads that provide traction and cloven hooves that can be spread apart as needed; and dewclaws that are sharp to keep them from slipping. Several years ago I was traveling in Glacier National Park, Montana and came across a single Mountain Goat drinking water from the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. I watched in amazement when he turned and started up the cliff (from which he probably had come down):

I found a way to descend my side of the canyon wall to get a closer photo. It wasn't quite as easy for me, probably because I don't have cloven hoofs and dewclaws. Here's the best I could do:

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