The mountain goat is a white mammal found only in North America. A sure-footed relative of antelopes, gazelles, and cattle, mountain goats usually are found on ice or cliffs. Mountain goats are not native to Yellowstone NP, introduced to Montana in the 1940s. Mountain goats inhabit the same rocky cliffs that mountain sheep, so they might compete for scarce resources at some point.
The photo above shows the cliff where we first saw mountain goats. The photo is at 400 mm, 8x magnification.
On our first day in Yellowstone NP, a person at the Lamar River osprey nest told us they had seen mountain goats and told us to keep driving east on the road through the Lamar Valley. We drove east on the road until we got to the east park entrance — we had missed the mountain goats. We asked the park ranger, and she told us to look for Barronette Peak on the right-hand side of the road.
We turned around and drove a few miles and stopped at the Barronette Peak turnout. We looked at the mountain and even walked a couple hundred yards closer, but we still didn’t see mountain goats. The mountain is large and far away. A couple cars drove up. the people got out, set up spotting scopes, and started pointing up the mountain.
I walked up and asked them if they saw mountain goats, and they said they did. They explained several times where to look, but I still didn’t see anything. They finally had me look through their spotting scope, and I saw mountain goats!
The mountain goats were so far away that we could barely see them through our binoculars. I took the above photo that day, just to record what was there. The photo is at 400 mm, with a tripod. From the center of the photo, look toward the bottom-right corner, and stop when you see a look for a triangular patch of snow. The snow is white. If you found the patch of snow, do you see four white dots under the patch of snow?
The white dots are four mountain goats. Here’s a tight crop from the above photo.
Talking with the owner of the apartment later that day, he said he’s never seen mountain goats. He had worked for the Park Service for over 20 years.
We drove through Lamar Valley on several days, so we visited Barronette Peak on another day. Here’s a photo at 100 mm, to show the mountain. The clouds were lower, so we couldn’t see the mountain top.
Once again, some folks were looking at the mountain through a spotting scope and pointing to the mountain. And once again, we were clueless and had to ask for help. To make a long story short, here’s a crop from a photo shot at 400 mm, when you know where to look. We saw smaller goats (kids) that stay close to an adult.
After we know where to look, we could follow the mountain goats as they walked on the cliff, but this cropped photo is better than what we could see with our binoculars. The mountain goats are far from the road, and this was about a close as we could get. We appreciated the power of a spotting scope, and we’d learn this lesson again with several other animals.