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Montana Field Guides

Mountain Goat - Oreamnos americanus

Native/Non-native Species
(depends on location or taxa)

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status


External Links

Listen to an Audio Sample
Copyright Jeff Rice and the Western Soundscape Archive at the University of Utah. Audio file courtesy of the Acoustic Atlas at Montana State University (
State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Species is apparently secure and not at risk of extirpation or facing significant threats in all or most of its range.
  • Details on Status Ranking and Review
    Mountain Goat (Oreamnos americanus) Conservation Status Review
    Review Date = 05/03/2018
    Population Size

    ScoreD - 1,000-2,500 individuals

    Comment2016 estimate from Smith and DeCesare (2017) is 3,685 individuals within the state, with 2,526 of these in introduced (non-native) populations and 1,159 in populations within historic range (native). Only the native populaiton was considered when ranki

    Range Extent

    ScoreF - 20,000-200,000 km squared (about 8,000-80,000 square miles)

    Comment145,195 square Kilometers from Natural Heritage Program range maps

    Long-term Trend

    ScoreE - Relatively Stable (±25% change)

    CommentNative populations have declined 3-4 fold since the 1940s and 50s. The majority of introduced populations are stable or increasing. In aggregate the number of goats within the state has remained stable.

    Short-term Trend

    ScoreE - Stable. Population, range, area occupied, and/or number or condition of occurrences unchanged or remaining within ±10% fluctuation

    CommentAcross both native and introduced populations, population is stable within 10% over the last decade (Smith, B. L., and N. J. DeCesare. 2017. Status of Montana’s mountain goats: A synthesis of management data (1960–2015) and field biologists’ perspectives)


    ScoreG - Slightly threatened. Threats, while recognizable, are of low severity, or affecting only a small portion of the population or area.

    CommentGenetic isolation, disturbance, climate change

    SeverityLow - Low but nontrivial reduction of species population or reversible degradation or reduction of habitat in area affected, with recovery expected in 10-50 years.

    CommentDegradation of alpine habitats due t climate change likely irreversible. Impacts from disturbance are reversible within a short timeframe

    ScopeLow - 5-20% of total population or area affected

    CommentSpecific threats unlikely to impact more than 20% of the population in the next few decades

    ImmediacyHigh - Threat is operational (happening now) or imminent (within a year).


    Intrinsic Vulnerability

    ScoreC - Not Intrinsically Vulnerable. Species matures quickly, reproduces frequently, and/or has high fecundity such that populations recover quickly (< 5 years or 2 generations) from decreases in abundance; or species has high dispersal capability such that extirpated populations soon become reestablished through natural recolonization (unaided by humans).

    CommentLow fecundity (1 young per year), and isolated populations, but as a managed species, translocation and management can mitigate these vulnerabilities.

    Environmental Specificity

    ScoreB - Narrow. Specialist. Specific habitat(s) or other abiotic and/or biotic factors (see above) are used or required by the Element, but these key requirements are common and within the generalized range of the species within the area of interest.

    CommentAlpine specialist

    Raw Conservation Status Score

    Score 3.5 + -0.25 (population size) + 0 (geographic distribution) + 0 (short-term trend) + 0.75 (threats) = 4

General Description
Coat white; horns and hooves black; tail may have a few brown or black hairs. Long hair of winter coat forms a beard under the chin and pantaloons around the front legs. Body compact and chunky, legs short. Horns smooth, sharp, and curved slightly backward, 8 to 10 inches long. Horns of nannies curve less and are thinner, but sometimes longer, than those of billies. Hooves have hard outer edges with soft centers that "stick" to rocks. Old billies may weigh 300 lbs. or more, nannies about 150 lbs. Nannies, kids and immature billies form small herds; mature billies often alone except during rut; females dominant over males.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions

All Ranges
(Click legend blocks to view individual ranges)

Montana Distribution

Western Hemisphere Range


Range Comments
Map images and GIS layers of general and winter range for populations of this and other hunted wildlife species can be found on Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks GIS Layers web page

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 9988

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Occassionally discrete winter and summer ranges 5 to 10 miles apart in Bitterroots (Smith 1976). Males show little home range fidelity (Rideout 1977).

Precipitous terrain; steep, south-facing slopes in winter, sometimes enter subalpine forest. Snow cover an important influence on winter distribution. Winter habitat: cliffy terrain, south-facing canyon walls, windblown ridgetops. Spring: south- and west-facing cliffs. Summer: meadows, cliffs, ravines, and forests (Chadwick 1973, Burleigh 1978, Joslin 1985).

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2012.  Mammals of Montana.  Second edition.  Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana.  429 pp.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Grasses, sedges, lichens, forbs and shrubs. Dominant items vary dependent on range and season: grasses, sedges, shrubs and forbs. Coniferous trees, mosses and lichens also used (Saunders 1955, Chadwick 1973, Smith 1976, Burleigh 1978). May congregate at mineral licks (Joslin 1985, Singer 1978).

Vehicle access linked to population declines (Joslin 1985). Low productivity and sociobiological characteristics combine to make sensitive to overharvest (Smith 1976, Burleigh 1978). May leave traditional areas in response to disturbances such as logging (Chadwick 1973, Joslin 1985).

Reproductive Characteristics
Breed in November and December; usually one kid, but sometimes two on good range. Billies fight head to tail, sometimes inflicting serious wounds to hindquarters and flanks. Nannies usually breed at 2 1/2 years of age. Courtship begins late October. Give birth late May to early June. Gestation 182 days. Neo-nates highly precocious (Smith 1976). Hunting tends to be additive mortality. Low-to-no compensatory response.

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Burleigh, W.E. 1978. Seasonal distribution and historical decline of the Rocky Mountain goat in the Cabinet Mountains, Montana. M.S. thesis. University of Montana, Missoula. 110 pp.
    • Chadwick, D.H. 1973. Mountain goat ecology--logging relationships in the Bunker Creek drainage of western Montana. M.S. thesis. University of Montana, Missoula. 262 pp.
    • Joslin, G. 1985. Montana mountain goat investigations, Rocky Mountain Front. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Helena. 212 pp.
    • Rideout, C.B. 1977. Mountain goat home ranges in the Sapphire Mountains of Montana. Pp. 201-211. in: Proc. Int. Mountain Goat Symposium. S. W. and W. G. MacGregor (eds). Brit. Col. Min. of Recr. and Conserv., F& W Branch.
    • Saunders, J.K. 1955. Food habits and range use of the Rocky Mountain goat in the Crazy Mountains, Montana. J. Wildl. Manage. 19:429-437.
    • Singer, F.J. 1978. Behavior of mountain goats in relation to U.S. Highway 2, Glacier National Park, Montana. Journal of Wildlife Management 42(3):591-597.
    • Smith, B.L. 1976. Ecology of Rocky Mountain goats in the Bitterroot Mountains, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 203 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Aho, Ken Andrew. 2006. Alpine and Cliff Ecosystems in the North-Central Rocky Mountains. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 343 p.
    • Anonymous. 1942. Grizzly bear, mountain goat, and moose survey. Flathead and Kootenai Management Units. Montana Fish and Game Department. Special Rep. 27 pp.
    • Anonymous. 1946. Trapping and transplanting goats. Montana Fish and Game Comm. 1945-46 Biennial Report.
    • Bansner, U. 1976. Mountain goat-human interactions in the Sperry-Gunsight Pass area, Glacier National Park. Unpublished report. Missoula,MT: University of Montana. 46 p.
    • Boyd, K. 2020. Literature Review: Impacts of human recreational land use of mountain Goats (Oreamnos americanus). Produced for The Wilderness Society. 12 p.
    • Brandborg, S. M. 1955. Life history and management of the mountain goat in Idaho. Idaho Dept. Fish Game, Wildl. Bull. 2. 142 pp.
    • Brown, W. S. 1978-79. Habitat partitioning and niche overlap between bighorn sheep and mountain goats. In K. L. McArthur, comp., 1978-79 Annual Research Summaries, Unpubl. Rep., USDI National Park Service, Glacier National Park, MT. 66 pp.
    • Byelich, B.R. 1993. Seasonal locations of bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and elk on the Haystack Domestic Sheep Allotment, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 96 p.
    • Casebeer, R. L., M. J. Rognrud and S. M. Brandberg. 1950. Rocky Mountain goats in Montana. Montana Fish and Game Comm., Wildl. Rest. Div. Bull. No.5. 107 pp.
    • Chapman, J.A., and G.A. Feldhamer. 1982. Wild mammals of North America: biology, management, and economics. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
    • Dillard, S.L. 2019. Restoring semi-arid lands with microtopography. M.Sc. Thesis. Bpzeman, MT: Montana State University. 97 p.
    • Eng, R.L. 1976. Wildlife Baseline Study [for West Fork of the Stillwater and Picket Pin drainages]
    • Enk, E.A. 1999. Population dynamics of bighorn sheep on the Beartooth Wildlife Management Area, Montana. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 177 p.
    • Foresman, K.R. 2001. The wild mammals of Montana. American Society of Mammalogists, Special Publication Number 12. Lawrence, KS. 278 pp.
    • Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
    • Foss, A.J. 1962. A study of the Rocky Mountain goat in Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 26 p.
    • Fowle, S. and J. Ashley. 1994. Interactions between park visitors and mountain goats at Logan Pass and Oberlin Bend in Glacier National Park, Montana. 1994 Monitoring results and recommendations. Resource Management, Glacier National Park. 67 p.
    • Grigg, J.L. 2007. Gradients of predation risk affect distribution and migration of a large herbivore. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 94 p.
    • Hoffmann, R.S. and D.L. Pattie. 1968. A guide to Montana mammals: identification, habitat, distribution, and abundance. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 133 p.
    • Interagency Rocky Mountain Front Wildlife Monitoring/Evaluation Program. 1987. Management Guidelines for Selected Species. Rocky Mountain Front Studies. BLM-MT-PT-87-003-4111.
    • Joslin, G. 1986. Mountain goat population changes in relation to energy exploration along Montana's Rocky Mountain Front. pp. 253-271 In: Joslin, G. (ed). Proceedings of the Fifth Northern Wild Sheep and Goat Council.
    • Joslin, Gayle, and Heidi B. Youmans. 1999. Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain wildlife: a review for Montana. [Montana]: Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society.
    • Joslin, Gayle. 1980. Wildlife inventory and hard rock mining impact analysis of the West Cabinet Mountains and Lake Creek Valley, Lincoln County, Montana. MTFWP 91 pgs + 47 pgs app.
    • Lentfer, J.W. 1954. A two-year study of the Rocky Mountain goat in the Crazy Mountains, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 40 p.
    • Lentfer, J.W. 1955. A two-year study of the Rocky Mountain goat in the Crazy Mountains, Montana. The Journal of Wildlife Management 19(4):417-429.
    • Lowrey, B.,R.A., Garrott, H.M. Miyasaki, G. Fralick, and S.R. Dewey. 2017. Seasonal Resource Selection by introduce Mountain Goats in the southwest Greater Yellowstone Area. Ecosphere 8(4). e01769.
    • Lowrey, B.H. 2018. Spatial ecology of Mountain Ungulates in the Northern Rocky Mountains: Range expansion, habitat characteristics, niche overlap, and migratory diversity. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 244 p.
    • Mack, I. A., F. J. Singer, and M. E. Messaros. 1990. The ungulate prey base for wolves in Yellowstone National Park II: elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats in the areas adjacent to the park. Pp. 2-41 to 2218 in Wolves for Yellowstone A report to the United States Congress, Vol. 2, Research and Analysis. Natl. Park Serv., Yellowstone National Park, WY.
    • McCullough, Y.B. 1980. Niche separation of seven North American ungulates on the National Bison Range, Montana. Dissertation Abstracts International 41(2):453B-454B.
    • Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. 1948-1992. Annual goat hunting and harvest statistics. Helena.
    • Oechsli, L.M. 2000. Ex-urban development in the Rocky Mountain West: consequences for native vegetation, wildlife diversity, and land-use planning in Big Sky, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Montana State University, Bozeman. 73 p.
    • O'Gara, B. W., and K. S. Todd, Jr. 1968. Eineria montanaensis n. sp. and e. ernesti n. sp. (protozoa: eimeriidae) from the Rocky Mountain goat Oreamnos americanus. J. Protozool. 15(4). 3 pp.
    • O'Reilly, M. 2013. Development of occupancy surveys for mountain ungulates. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 114 p.
    • Pattie, D.L. and N.A. M. Verbeek. 1967. Alpine mammals of the Beartooth Plateau. Northwest Science 41(3): 110-117.
    • Peck, S. V. 1972. Spanish Peaks mountain goat study. M.S. thesis, Montana State University, Bozeman. 54 pp.
    • Peck, S.V. 1972. The ecology of the Rocky Mountain goat in the Spanish Peaks area of southwestern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 54 p.
    • Pedevillano, C. 1986. Mountain goat behavior at the Walton Lick and Highway 2 underpasses in Glacier National Park. M.S. thesis, University of Idaho, Moscow. 110 pp.
    • Pedevillano, C. and R. G. Wright. 1987. The influence of visitors on mountain goat activities in Glacier National Park, Montana. BioI. Cons. 39: I-I I.
    • Peek, J. M. 1962. Rocky Mountain goat investigations (range phase). Montana Fish and Game Dept. P-R Job Compl. Rep. Proj. W-98-R-2, Job B-9 (Multilith).
    • Petrides, G. A. 1948. Mountain goat age ratios in Montana. J. Mammal. 29:185.
    • Phelps, D. E., B. Jamieson, and R. A. Demarchi, 1975, Mountain Goat Management in the Kootenays I. The History of Goat Management II. A Goat Management Plan, 1975-1985
    • Reid, F. 2006. Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America, 4th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston and New York, 608 pp.
    • Rhee, S. 1988-89.Maternal investment in mountain goats, Oreamnos americanus: a study of nursing as a measure of investment in mountain goat sons and daughters in Glacier... In K. Dimont, comp., 1988-89 Science Summary, Glacier National Park. Unpubl. Rep., USDI National Park Service, Glacier National Park, MT.
    • Rideout, C. B. 1974. A radio telemetry study of the ecology and behavior of the Rocky Mountain goat in western Montana. M.S. thesis. University of Kansas.
    • Rideout, C. B. 1974. Goats of Gunsight Pass. National Parks & Conservation Magazine 48(2):18-21.
    • Rideout, C.B. 1980. Mountain goat, pp.149-159 in Schmidt, J. L. and D.L. Gilbert. 1980. Big Game of North America: ecology and management. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg. 494 pp.
    • Rideout, C.B. and R.S. Hoffmann. Oreamnos americanus. Mammalian Species 63:1-6.
    • Samuel, W. and W.G. Macgregor (eds.). 1977. Proceedings of the First International Mountain Goat Symposium, February 17-18. 243 p.
    • Saunders, J.K. Jr. 1955. Food habits and range use of the Rocky Mountain goat in the Crazy Mountains, Montana. Journal of Wildlife Management 19(4):429-437.
    • Saunders, J.K., Jr. 1954. A two-year investigation of the food habits and range use of the Rocky Mountain goat in the Crazy Mountains, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 22 p.
    • Schubloom, L.A. 1995. Lichens as air quality indicators in three areas of southwestern Montana: lichen floristics and elemental analysis. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 130 p.
    • Semmens, W.J. 1996. Seasonal movements and habitat use of the Highlands/Pioneer Mountains bighorn sheep herd of southwest Montana. M. Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 103 p.
    • Singer, F. J. 1975. Ecology of mountain goats in the vicinity of Walton Goat Lick, Glacier National Park. Unpubl. Prog. Rep., USDI National Park Service, Glacier National Park, MT. 16 pp.
    • Singer, F. J. 1977. Dominance, leadership and group cohesion of mountain goats at a natural lick, Glacier National Park, Montana. In: W. Samuel and W. G. MacGregor (eds). Proc. 1st. Int. Mt. Goat Symp. Brit. Col. Minist. of Rec., Fish and Wildl. Branch.
    • Singer, F. J., C. Pedevillano, and R. G. Wright. 1985. Ungulates, highways and national parks or "the mountain goats of U.S. 2." Park Science--A Resource Manage. Bull. 5(2):20-21.
    • Singer, F.J. 1975. Behavior of mountain goats, elk and other wildlife in relation to U.S. Highway 2, Glacier National Park. West Glacier, MT: Glacier National Park and the Federal Hwy. Admin. 96 p.
    • Singer, F.J. and J.L. Doherty. 1985. Movements and habitat use in an unhunted population of mountain goats, Oreamnos americanus. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 99:205-217.
    • Smith, B. L. 1988. Criteria for determining age and sex of American mountain goats in the field. J. Mamm. 69:395-402.
    • Stewart, S.T. 1975. Ecology of the West Rosebud and Stillwater bighorn sheep herds, Beartooth Mountains, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 130 p.
    • Stivers, T.S. 1988. Effects of livestock grazing on grizzly bear habitat along the east front of the Rocky Mountains, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 80 p.
    • Suiger, F. J. and J. L. Doherty. 1985. Managing mountain goats at a highway crossing. Wild. Soc. Bull. 13(4):469-476.
    • Swenson, J. E. 1985. Compensatory reproduction in an introduced mountain goat population in the Absaroka Mountains, Montana. J. Wild. Mgmt. 49(4):837-842.
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    • Thompson, M. J. 1980. Cannon netting mountain goats. Proc. Northern Wild Sheep and Goat Council.
    • Thompson, M. J. 1981. Mountain Goat distribution, population characteristics and habitat use in the Sawtooth Range, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 80 p.
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    • Varley, N.C. 1996. Ecology of mountain goats in the Absaroka Range, south-central Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 91 p.
    • Weigand, J.P. 1994. Range use and interspecific competition of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the Highland Mountains, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 75 p.
    • Western Technology and Eng., Inc., Helena, MT., 1996, Terrestrial Wildlife Reconnaissance: Stillwater Mining Company Hertzler Tailings Facility and Tailings Line, 1996. October 1996. In Stillwater Mining Co. Mine Waste Management Plan Amendment to Permit #00118 Supplemental Baseline Reports: Terrestrial Wildlife, Vegetation, Soils, Land Application Disposal, Waters of the U.S. January 1997.
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Mountain Goat — Oreamnos americanus.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from