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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mountain Goat Or True Goat?

Mountain Goat or True Goat?

Now I'm not sure...

Armed with two cameras and binoculars, I returned to the wilds of Wallula Gap today to wrest from nature a better photograph of the wiley Mountain goats seen a couple of days ago.

Rain lightly spattered on my windshield as I approached the curve in the highway near the locations I'd been at previously. I immediately spotted two goats on the hillside, lower down than before, closer than the two seen earlier.

Elated, I readied my equipment and began to walk closer, snapping shots as I went. I'd brought my film SLR camera and a small digital. I love working with the near-obsolete 35mm film camera. I'd spent so much time as a teenager with such a camera. Hours in the darkroom, developing and printing my photographs. Most of my shots today were with the 35mm, but I did snap a few backup shots with the digital.

As I got closer, it soon appeared that these were not Mountain goats. No horns, no beard, floppy ears...nothing like the images I'd seen surfing through Google and Wikipedia. One of the goats had a brown head and face.

This is the only digital shot that turned out anywhere near decent. The rain and low-contrast lighting made it difficult for my small digital to focus and get the right exposure...I hope the 35mm shots turn out better...I'll have to send the roll in for processing before I'll know.

Back at home I searched for more information. How does one distinguish between Mountain goats (Oreamnos) and true goats (Capra)? Turns out not so easily, at least for casual nature-lovers like me.

According to Animal Planet, goats and mountain goats are not much different from each other, at least from outward appearances, as seen through binoculars. The major difference is in their bone structure: mountain goats have thin, light skulls. Their horns are shorter, more slender and pointier.

So, I guess it's possible that the goats on the cliffs of Wallula Gap are Mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus).

My gut, however, tells me that these are domestic goats turned out into the wild to fend for themselves.

Mountain goat? by the author, Creative Commons License

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