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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Billy Goat Albert

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren


There is a new billy goat in town and his name is Albert.

Hey, Albert!
Albert, a young male Rocky Mountain goat, made his debut on the Northern Trail on October 27th. His sure-footedness and intuitive climbing abilities makes him perfectly adapted to his new home on the high rocky outcrop of the exhibit.

We think Albert's woolly coat is quite striking against this mossy backdrop.
Albert was born in May of 2014 at Calgary Zoo where he lived until moving to Seattle. He now joins the ranks with the oldest mountain goat in North America,  our 20 year old female, CK, who was born here at Woodland Park Zoo. At a year and half old, Albert is much younger than his woolly friend, so keepers are refraining from putting them together (think pre-teen and great, great grandmother). While they are not on exhibit together, they have visual and vocal access to each other in the barn and seem to get along quite well. Albert is much more interested in CK than she is in him—although they both tend to keep each other in their sites. 

Albert has also met Lilly, our arctic fox, who sometimes shares the exhibit with CK. Lilly has been spotted running along the fence line when Albert is close—perhaps trying to play or mischievously taunting him a bit—she is a fox after all.

Albert's handsome face.
Albert’s keepers tell us he is a calm and curious goat. He responds to his name and so far has shown no aggression towards his keepers, a sign he is adapting well to his new home. Albert is still growing, but he could weigh 250 to 300 lbs. when he is full grown. His favorite treats at the moment are bamboo browse and grain pellets, but he receives a full spread of apples, carrots, various greens, hay, alfalfa, and a plethora of browse. Albert and CK both have access to grass on their exhibit as well.

Albert surveys his neighbors, the elk and the grizzly bears.
Initially tentative on some of the rocks, Albert now seems much more confident. In fact, his favorite spot is the large round rock nearest to the grizzly bear exhibit!

Rocky Mountain goats naturally range from southern Alaska, Canada, Washington, Idaho and Montana.  Transplanted populations now live in Colorado, Oregon, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, South Dakota and Washington's Olympic Peninsula. In Washington, you can spot these snow-white creatures on the steepest ledges of the Olympic Mountains and the snowy peaks of the Cascades.

Albert has some very fine looking hooves.
Mountain goats live, sleep and eat at elevations of 10,000 feet and up. They are especially adept at hanging out in extremely harsh conditions such as snowy slopes with pitches above 60 degrees, winds up to 100 mph, snow drifts of 30 – 60 feet high and chilly temperatures down to -50 degrees. There is a dad joke in here somewhere about having to walk to school in the snow with bare feet, but we’re pretty sure mountain goats have that old joke beat!

Imagine spending most of your time balancing above snowy windswept cliffs, your hooves perfectly shaped to help grip onto the steep slopes while you graze for lichens, ferns and moss or browse on twigs and shrub leaves. A mountain goat’s incredible adaptations allow it to live high above potential predators such as mountain lions, bears or wolverines. The only predator that lives above the timberline is the golden eagle which might attack a newborn or very young goat.

CK, our female mountain goat, is a bit fluffier and whiter than Albert at the moment. She is the oldest mountain goat in North America, quite the Queen of the Northern Trail.
When it comes to confrontations between goats, it is usually the nannies, the females, who are most aggressive. The nannies hang out in larger groups with a strict hierarchy and most fights occur over feeding resources, salt licks, and rest spots where dominance is based on age and size. These herds, although made up of some tough mama goats, are referred to as nursery bands. The nannies tend to stick together to raise their young in the summer, forming groups of up to 50 individuals. The billies prefer to remain independent and typically form small bachelor groups of two or three goats.

During the fall season, the goats are protected from chilly temperatures by their woolly white double coats. The first layer of fur is made up of a dense wool undercoat while the outer layer is made up of longer, hollow hairs that use thermoregulation to keep the goats toasty on the icy slopes.

At the moment, CK is looking bit woollier, fluffier and whiter than Albert (she’s got a lot of experience in growing a winter coat!), but you can also tell them apart by the blue tag in Albert’s right ear.

Next time you pass by the Northern Trail keep a lookout for young Albert, he’ll be the woolly one on the tip top of the rocks!

Albert on the Northern Trail.


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