Mountain Goat - Oreamnos americanus
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
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
ScoreF - 20,000-200,000 km squared (about 8,000-80,000 square miles)
Comment145,195 square Kilometers from Natural Heritage Program range maps
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.
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).
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.
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.
Raw Conservation Status Score
3.5 + -0.25 (population size) + 0 (geographic distribution) + 0 (short-term trend) + 0.75 (threats) = 4
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.
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:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
(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:
- 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);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- 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: mtnhp.org/requests
) 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.
- 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.
- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
Sparse and Barren Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Wetland and Riparian Systems
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).
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.
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- 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.
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- 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.
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- 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).
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- Additional Sources of Information Related to "Mammals"