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Mountain Goat

Part of Hall of North American Mammals.

NAM Mountain Goat Hero

August, Tongass National Forest
Southern Alaska

No mammal is more sure-footed on steep peaks than the mountain goat. Its agility and traction surpasses even that of wild sheep (dioramas behind you). Among the goat’s advantages are muscular forelimbs to help brake on downhills and race upslope. This climber can gain 75 feet (23 meters) of altitude in only a minute.

In fact, a young mountain goat can climb anywhere its mother can within a week after birth. The kid in this scene is about three months old and was probably born on a high cliff.

Tidewater Glacier
Tracy Arm–Ford’s Terror Wilderness
Tongass National Forest, Alaska

Standing where these goats are, you would hear more than see this glacier moving—a creaking as the ice strains down the valleys, and a booming crack when the leading edge breaks off into the fjord.

Today, Alaska’s glaciers are noisier than ever, disintegrating faster than they were when this background was painted in 1946. Glaciers retreat when more ice melts at their leading edge than snow falls at their mountain source. Overall, climate change is causing severe melting at Alaska’s steep southern coast and other icy landscapes worldwide. If this scene were painted today, the glacier’s edge would be much more distant.

Current range of mountain goat: southern Alaska to southern Idaho as well as western mountains where they have been introduced