“These mountain goats are big animals and those horns are very sharp,” says wildlife ecologist David Laskin of the grizzly bear‘s demise.
Over the busy Labor Day weekend, a hiker would discover a grizzly bear carcass a few feet off Burgess Pass Trail. It’s an incredible 8-mile hike near Field in Canada’s Yoho National Park; one of British Columbia‘s many sparkling gems.
Yet the scene was far from picturesque. The hiker’s September 4 discovery saw a grizzly bear sow who had bled out after meeting her fate. But what could’ve possibly taken down one of these enormous beasts? Another grizzly? Illegal poaching? Nope.
Parks Canada officials cite their forensic necropsy shows the 157-pound grizzly bear was killed by, yes, a mountain goat. Several deep puncture wounds – one beneath each armpit and one into the neck – confirm the fatal blows came from a species that is common prey to brown bears.
“Grizzly bear predation of mountain goats is relatively common, and I guess the mountain goat was successful in this instance and turned the tables on the grizzly,” wildlife ecologist David Laskin adds for Rocky Mountain Outlook.
As Laskin points out, “These mountain goats are big animals and those horns are very sharp.”
How big? A large, mature mountain goat can stand close to 4-feet at the shoulder and weigh anywhere from 130 to 260 pounds on average. Take this footage of an absolute tank for a clear visual example.
Knowing this helps put the table-turning encounter into perspective. The female grizzly, coming in at just over 150 pounds, was quite small for her species. A typical adult grizzly sow is rarely under 270-300 pounds, and can get as big as 450 pounds. Double that for a male.
Grizzly Bear vs Mountain Goat: Fatality
Because of this, it’s likely the grizzly sow was more than a yearling and hunting on her own, but not old enough to know not to pick on a mountain goat that could’ve very well outweighed her. That, or the sow was underweight due to it being a slow time for feeding. She then met a gruesome end as a result.
“The necropsy determined that the female grizzly bear died of natural causes, which is due to an unsuccessful predation attempt of a mountain goat,” Laskin continues. His work with the Yoho and Kootenay field unit yields many fascinating things, but this certainly tops the list.
Laskin adds that the locations of the small grizzly bear‘s wounds (underneath armpits and the neck) match both the “predatory attack behavior” of grizzlies and the “defensive responses” of mountain goats.
“When grizzly bears attack, they tend to focus on the head, back of the neck and the shoulders of the prey, and it’s usually from above,” he continues. “So in turn the defensive response of the mountain goat would be to protect itself using its sharp horns.”
And it clearly works.
“Though rare, other cases of mountain goats defensively killing bears have been reported in the past,” Laskin says. He cites this most recent case as “not completely surprising” as a result.
In the end, however, he hopes this revelation helps fellow Outsiders respect mountain goats as “strong animals that are well equipped to defend themselves.”