For more information on species & ecosystem science:

Wildlife Science

Fish Science

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


A Mountain Goat in Winter


Mountain Goat Ecology

Seasonal Movements

Project Description

We have known for some time that mountain goats inhabit alpine and sub-alpine areas in the summer and descend to lower elevations during the winter. The extent of this shift in our GPS-collared mountain goats was highly variable. Typically, summer and winter elevations differed by about 1,000 feet, but for some mountain goats, this difference was as little as 200 feet or as much as 2,000 feet. We also found that some mountain goats moved back and forth between higher and lower elevations many times in a year, whereas others stayed at high elevations all summer and at lower elevations all winter. These differences probably reflect differences in the availability of suitable lower elevation habitat and conditions prevailing at different elevations and in different years. It also suggests that the use of lower elevations in winter varies with each location, making it hard to generalize. Overall, summer elevations use started on 6 June whereas winter started on 19 October and the typical duration of summer elevation use was 4.6 months (7.4 months for winter). That is, mountain goats tended to spend longer at lower elevations that at higher elevations. So, although we tend to think of mountain goats as inhabitants of high, alpine terrain, the greater portion of the year is actually spent lower down.