This past August after leaving Mount Rushmore and traveling along Highway 89 in the Black Hills, we stopped at a highway turn-out for some photos. Looking at the beauty of the landscape and odd rock formations as well as searching for wildlife, it was then that I spotted several Rocky Mountain Goats just hanging out below and to my right on the rocky granite cliffs.
Rocky Mountain Goats are not native to South Dakota. In 1924, six of these goats were gifted to nearby Custer State Park by the Canadian government. Excellent climbers, those six goats quickly escaped their penned area and headed to the craggy granite core of the Black Hills for refuge.
Today, their primary range now extends over 32,000 acres at elevations from about 4,000 feet to over 7,200 feet.
Once fall and winter approach, the Rocky Mountain Goat’s fur coat will grow longer and quite shaggy to protect them from the elements.
Rocky Mountain Goats are grazing animals. Their diet includes grasses, herbs, sedges, ferns, moss, lichen, and shrubs.
As I watched and shot some wonderful photo ops, the goats skillfully climbed and stood on sides of granite as if it was no accomplishment. It was quite amazing!
The Rocky Mountain Goat has been part of regulated hunting through the years since their arrival, but it was stopped in 2007 due to a noticeable decline in population. This year marks the reopening of the Rocky Mountain Goat hunting season September 1 – December 31 after being closed for the past nine years.
I was disappointed to find out that information. They are too cute to shoot, except with a camera! By the time I stopped photographing them, there was a crowd of people around me, watching and laughing and totally enjoying these unique animals. I am certain they would all agree with me.
Hopefully, this small group of goats has been outsmarting the hunters! 🙂