you can do anything if you put your mind to it and possess particular biological adaptations and evolutionary propensities

Wildlife photography is a wholly unfamiliar discipline to me so it was kind of neat when Adam and I made the acquaintance of some shaggy mountain goats at close quarters in the subalpine, Saturday night. This portrait is someplace in the 24 mm neighborhood which is normally reserved for more stationary objects which tend to not elude me. The inspiration to share this came after dropping the boys, my niece and Grandma off at the zoo, this morning. They’re still there, even. I’m not a big zoo person. The animals always seem to lock onto me in particular with their sad eyes, staring into my soul trying to trade places as it were, giving me a terrible guilt complex, raising all sorts of ethical and philosophical questions I’m not well-equipped to handle. So I just don’t go there.

June 2019 - Mt. Ellinor 158

At any rate, it’s always a good idea to keep a rock available in your pocket in case you encounter a pushier goat on a mountaintop in some ranges of the Olympics or Cascades, they’ve become quite habituated to (fond of, even) Instagram-obsessed humans and the braver ones will get up in your business in the quest for salt. It was electric watching them scale cliffside, the sound of those clacking hooves tend to induce goosebumps. As evolved as they are to move comfortably, nonchalantly about this terrain, plenty of goats bite the dust falling to their deaths so watching them gave me sweaty palms.

7 thoughts on “you can do anything if you put your mind to it and possess particular biological adaptations and evolutionary propensities

    • Hi Robert. Hope this finds you doing well, enjoying early summer neighborhood festivals in Milwaukee or cool, refreshing walks along Lake Michigan. Maybe you’re watching a good thunderstorm from a safe place. Your note brings to mind the peculiarly-named Mount Wow, a prominent satellite peak found on the southwest side of Mt. Rainier, featuring a hazardous, airy gap in the rock toward the top which must be stepped over with courage.

      • Hi Jason. yeah, we’ve had thunderstorms six days in a row, been getting soaked a lot lately but it’s warm enough it feels good. That is an amazing photo. And, without knowing much about it, I’d always thought those goats were so wary, a human couldn’t get anywhere near them, so having to carry rocks in your pocket is a big surprise. I was thinking, on the topic of all the stuff I don’t know, that I’ve never heard of a “salt lick” anywhere in upstate NY, like the one Daniel Boone used to fight over. There’s almost a million whitetails in New York, I guess some of them pop into the cow pastures where there’s salt blocks, but the other ones aren’t accosting hikers & getting personal, I guess they must be eating clay, or maybe the crusty residue along the roads, since every county dumps tons of road salt every winter.
        They experiment with corn- and beet-brine combos, but basically just tons & tons of salt. Ok, rambling off topic, just an amazing photo.

  1. Unfortunately it’s true an awful lot of mountain goats in the Cascades and Olympic mountain ranges could be characterized as extraordinarily habituated to people. I’ve had my share of quite pesky encounters. I always keep a fairly healthy distance (soon after this, Adam and I would drop lower on the mountaintop for an equally scenic resting spot- felt as though we couldn’t let our guard down with the goats lingering about like aggressive chipmunks) but a lot of people don’t realize how dangerous those horns are. That’s no surprise really seeming as how we have tourists walking up to bison in Yellowstone, eh?

    Lots of whitetails in Michigan, too. Seems like discussions about carrying capacity there are always a flaming hot topic. My big sister lives in Oceana County on the edge of national forest and each year she asks herself why she bothers gardening because despite her best efforts at downsizing and fortification, deer descend upon the fruits of her labor like robotic locusts.

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever been that close to a mountain goat – on the rare occasions I’ve seen ’em they’ve been little more than big specs. And I don’t know if having rock handy would help me much, at this point my throwing accuracy seems to have deserted me. At least that seems to be the case with snowballs…

  3. Wow, when I initially saw this photo, I thought “Ok so this guy is a professional wildlife photographer.” Reading your post and realizing otherwise just makes this an even more incredible shot than I already thought it was. Absolutely amazing work. And your title made me laugh. (Glad your goat friends didn’t take you out!)

    • Thanks, Rachel. Part of me might’ve been tempted to take just an ounce of credit more than I deserve for being a sort of quasi-serviceable photographer (i would take that) who knows how to work the angles but this goat was the cleverest, unassuming salthound waiting to lick anything I might leave behind embued with my bodily fluids, from sweat to pee to whathaveyou. If you’ve explored the wilds around here for very long you probably already know from personal experience it adds a degree of comic relief when the goats aren’t too big…… but the cha-cha gets a little creepy when the biggies with horns come around.

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