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Habitat Science


Lead Scientist: Cliff Rice

Ecoregions: Northwest Coast, North Cascades, West Cascades, East Cascades, Okanogan

Ecological Systems: North Pacific Maritime Mesic Subalpine Parkland, North Pacific Montane Massive Bedrock Cliff and Talus, Northern Rocky Mountain Subalpine Woodland and Parkland, North Pacific Alpine and Subalpine Bedrock and Scree


Mountain Goat Ecology

Mineral Licks

Project Description

Prior to this study, little was known about mountain goat use of mineral licks in Washington. Eleven of the GPS-collared mountain goats visited known mineral licks (salt licks) or made excursions from their usual range which were evidently to visit mineral licks. Most mineral lick visits took place 1 June-15 August with peak visitation 14 June-29 July. The greatest distance a mountain goat traveled to visit a mineral lick was 18 miles (see video), but 3 miles was more typical and one mountain goat visited a mineral lick within his normal range of movements. Long-distance movements were essentially migratory in that the mountain goat traveled to the lick once a year and stayed in that area for an extended period (a month or more). Other mountain goats, however, stayed in the vicinity of the lick for only a few days once or maybe twice a year and some made repeated trips back and forth from the lick area (see video). These differences were evidently related to the distance traveled and the suitability of habitat in the vicinity of the lick.

Analysis of soils collected from mineral licks strongly indicated the sodium was the chemical most sought after at licks although concentrations of calcium, potassium, and sulphate were also somewhat elevated in lick soils.


3D view of GPS track of  a mountain goat's 20 mile move from Glacier Peak (mineral lick) to Pinnacle Mtn. (normal range).

2D record of mountain goat making repeated visits to a mineral licks near Glacier Peak.