Mountain goat viewing
Mountain goats are an iconic species of the northern mountains and represent a highly sought after wildlife viewing experience of local residents and visitors to the state of Alaska. Often seen in dramatic mountain landscapes, the species is very photogenic and captivating. While it might seem that watching mountain goats requires strenuous journeys deep into the remote backcountry, this is not necessarily the case. For example, in Alaska’s capital city of Juneau mountain goats can been seen with binoculars or spotting scopes from the downtown cruise ship dock — how many other capital cities can afford wildlife enthusiasts a comparably exhilarating experience?
Mountain goats are particularly interesting animals to watch. They are highly social (especially females) and form “nursery groups” comprised on adults, sub-adults and kids in summer. Sometimes such groups can number 40–50 animals (though typically 8–12) and often feature very entertaining bouts of playful behavior among kids. Mountain goats are also master climbers and can be observed navigating breathtakingly steep and rugged terrain with impressive gymnastic ability.
There are many excellent places to watch mountain goats near most coastal Alaskan communities. Some of the more popular places include:
- Juneau: Mt Juneau (from downtown or Gold Ck. Trail), Mendenhall Glacier
- Ketchikan: Deer Mountain trail
- Haines: Chilkoot Lake, Mt. Ripinsky Trail, Haines Highway
- Sitka: Blue Lake
- Tracy Arm: Sawyer Glacier (boat accessible only)
- Glacier Bay: Mt. Wright, Gloomy Knob (boat accessible only)
- Kenai Peninsula: Exit Glacier, Cooper Landing
- Kodiak: Barometer Mountain trail
- Anchorage/Girdwood: Crow Pass
- Cordova: Saddlebag Glacier trail
Native weaving and carving
The native inhabitants of the North Pacific coast of Alaska have traditionally used the hide, horns and other parts of mountain goats to create extraordinary works of art with deep cultural significance. Chilkat and Ravenstail blankets are traditionally woven from mountain goat hair (and cedar bark — in the case of Chilkat blankets). The hair is collected from hides harvested in the spring or by collecting shed wool in early-summer. The wool is meticulously processed and, in some cases, dyed using natural plant materials prior to being woven on looms in intricate designs. Blanket weaving requires exceptional skill and traditional knowledge and is practiced by a uniquely devoted group of traditional weavers, some of whom are internationally recognized for their accomplishments. Mountain goat horns are also carved into ceremonial spoons and engraved with intricate designs.
Mountain goat hair is highly valued by traditional weavers. If you find mountain goat hair while hiking in the mountains and would like to donate it to weavers, if will be highly appreciated. Your local ADFG office can put you in contact with local weavers.
Subsistence and sport hunting
Alaska natives have a long tradition of hunting mountain goats for food, hides and ceremonial purposes dating back thousands of years. Even today, in many rural communities local residents rely on mountain goats as a key source of sustenance, particularly in places where other species (such as deer, moose or caribou) are absent or uncommon. Mountain goats are also highly prized by sport hunters and in many places qualified guides will accompany hunters from around the world for “once in a lifetime” opportunities to hunt mountain goats. Mountain goat hunting is very difficult and requires an uncommon degree of dedication, tenacity and, crucially, preparation. Mountain goats hunters represent a unique segment of the hunting community as a result of these requirements.