Cliff Hanger at Dawn!

The rising sun bathes the cliffs in the rosy hues of dawn.  In a manner I can only describe as precarious, I watch, heart in mouth, as the billy goat stands on his back feet while on a sheer cliff slope.  His front legs dangle loose in the air, all the better to stretch and reach the last of this year’s leaves on the aspen before him.
Of course, the billy is the male of the Rocky Mountain Goat and for him, there is nothing precarious about the scene depicted above.  Mountain goats are renowned for their surefootedness and what seems reckless and foolhardy from a human perspective is, in fact, just another day for the mountain goat.

What makes a mountain goat so agile in rocky cliff terrain?  The truth is they are well designed for their natural habitat.

Mountain Goats have short legs in relation to their overall size, placed close together; their centre of gravity is close to the ground and at the front of their body.  These things help the goat travel on narrow ledges. Muscular shoulders provide great strength for climbing. Finally, the hooves are specialized with rough textured pads and the toes have the ability to spread wide – this distributes the goat’s weight over a larger area.  Conversely, the toes can pinch together, which helps with traction when travelling downhill.

The science adds some understanding to the magic unfolding before me.  I am in awe with this landscape, this animal, this moment in time.   

Come be amazed.  Yukon Wildlife Preserve. 

Julie Kerr

Julie Kerr

Visitor Services Coordinator

Julie is a Registered Veterinary Technologist, living and working in Whitehorse since 2012, who joined the team in May 2018. She is passionate about wildlife and living in a conscious manner within natural ecosystems. Cabin life on the outskirts of Whitehorse allows her free access to explore her passions, to capture a small portion of them via a trail camera, and to share the ensuing joy.

867-456-7400
julie@yukonwildlife.ca

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2 Comments

  1. Kirsten Scott

    I did not know that a mountain goat’s centre of gravity is close to the ground…I too am built like this, does that mean I also won’t fall off cliffs? 🙂 Not going to test this hypothesis any time soon but I’m glad it works for goats. Super informative, thanks for the new info. Great photo/graphic, showing the goat on the cliff, btw.

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