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Mountain goats near Smithers BC Canada

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Facts - Origin and Range

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The scientific name for mountain goats is Oreamnos americanus.
Mountain goats are in the family Bovidae in the order Artiodactyla.


Mountain goats may look similar to white domestic goats but they are not goats at all.  Mountain goats are distantly related to antelope and musk oxen and closely related to the alpine ungulates of Asia and Europe including the serow and chamois. Scientific literature suggests that mountain goats moved across a land bridge (Bering Sea) from northern Asia to North America about 40,000 years ago during the Wisconsin Glacial period.

Refuge mountains

During the last ice age (Wisconsin) ending 10,000 years ago, most of British Columbia was under up to 5000 feet (1515 m) of glacial ice. There is evidence that mountain goats took refuge on mountains and islands that remained ice-free along the Pacific coast of Alaska and British Columbia. Since then, goats have re-populated much of the mountainous terrain in British Columbia.


Mountain goats  live only in  alpine areas of Western North America from Colorado to Alaska and  the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The total number of mountain goats in the world is estimated at between 80,000 and 110,000.

Over half the world population live in British Columbia (50,000) with the greatest population density centred on  the Terrace/Smithers area of central British Columbia. Compare that to a population of moose in BC at 225,000 and deer in BC at 450,000.

Isolation of herds

The mountain goat population is spread out over a very large area in British Columbia and many of the herds are isolated from other herds. If we assume an average herd size of 20 mountain goats, there are 2500 herds in BC. If 40% of the total land area in the province is mountainous terrain suitable for goats then the calculated average land area for each herd is 151 square kilometers. Of course, herds are closer in some areas and further apart in others but this calculation gives an idea of the isolation of individual herds.


world distribution of mountain goats

World distribution of
mountain goats (in red)





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