Glacier National Park Mountain Goats Are Facing Off With Bighorn Sheep Over This Resource

by Megan Molseed
(Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

The main focus of one of our nation’s most famous national parks is quickly fading away. And, as this happens… another resource is emerging causing some stand-offish behavior among some of the area’s wildlife.

The glacier areas in Glacier National Park are continuing to recede. And, with these changes comes the exposure of saltlicks that were once well hidden below. Saltlicks that remain a coveted resource for some of the area’s natural wildlife. And, both the area’s mountain goat population and the bighorn sheep population are moving in. Hoping to soak up all of the nutrients these licks provide.

Animals At Glacier National Park Will Go To Great Lengths For A Super Nutrient

Salt licks have long proven to be a crucial piece of life for many animals. Goats and sheep and even bats, primates, or rodents will go to some great lengths to get a bit of this crucial resource. The licks are known to provide these animals with some important minerals that aren’t part of their natural diet.

And the area’s bighorn sheep and mountain goats are beginning to spar over these salt licks. But, experts are noting there is one clear victor in most of these battles…the mountain goat.

“We were surprised that mountain goats won,” notes Joel Berger, a professor at Colorado State University. Berger also serves as a senior scientist for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“Naively, I was just thinking, we’ve got two similar-sized species and they both live in these mountains,” Berger explains. And, the expert says that if “everything was equal, then half the time we’d expect one to win and half the time the other.”

However, this is not how things unfolded in this scenario. When the mountain goats and bighorn sheep are battling it out in the famous national park, the goats are the sparring champions. In the vast majority of these confrontations it was the goats bullying the sheep, the experts note.

The Goats Are Pushing The Sheep Out, Winning Most Of The Coveted Salt Licks

Most of the time, these mountain goats at Glacier National Park didn’t have to go too far to get their way. According to the experts, the goats are much more aggressive than the bighorn sheep. And they have zero issues adopting this attitude against the mountain herbivores.

“They are characteristically more aggressive,” notes ecologist Forest P. Hayes of the mountain goats. And, Hayes notes, these battles are likely to get more and more intense.

“As we’re seeing potential shifts in resource availability and increases in scarcity, it’s increasingly likely that this is going to happen more often,” Hayes explains. “So understanding these conflicts and ramifications for interacting species is really important.”