Mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) are a frequent spectacle in Colorado’s high country, especially on 14ers like this mountain goat on Mt. Quandary near Breckenridge. Despite being endemic to North America they were actually introduced into the Colorado landscape for game hunting beginning in the 1940’s.
While mountain goats fit in quite nicely with the Colorado landscape, their introduction may have inadvertently affected populations of bighorn sheep which were close to extinction in the early 1900’s. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has successfully increased bighorn sheep populations since then, although these populations are still closely monitored. Mountain goats are considered to be a hearty generalist species and it’s believed that they may play a role in passing diseases such as pneumonia on to bighorn sheep as well as displace bighorn sheep from prime habitat if their populations are close enough. Something worth thinking about when you see these magnificent animals roaming the peaks.
Want to see a mountain goat for yourself? It’s easiest to spot mountain goats in the early morning and late afternoon since they rest during mid-day. Warm months are also generally considered better viewing times compared to the cold winter. You may also just get lucky during a winter descent from Mt. Quandary and see a mountain goat like the one pictured above.
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