Mountain goat in snowy, avalanche terrain
Getty Images, wwing

Mountain Goat Triggers Avalanche, Takes Ride of Its Life

All signs point to the goat walking away afterwards.

It's not just people who have to worry about avalanches when they head into steep, wintry terrain. Mountain goats, too, are apparently liable to trigger avalanches—though if the goat in question is anything to go by, they're also a lot more likely to walk away from one than we are.

Ski patrollers at Big Sky Ski Resort in Montana reported to the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center that two large, natural avalanches had occurred in closed terrain on December 15. While natural avalanches are not uncommon at large resorts like Big Sky, according to the report, one of them had apparently been triggered by a goat.

Mountain goats have been known to romp around Big Sky, and can often be seen hoofing it straight up the mountain's 50-degree slopes. Ski patrollers work with animals, closing terrain and adjusting their avalanche control operations to work around them. They can't quite keep the goats from triggering their own avalanches, though.

On the 15th, goat tracks were found leading into the beginning, or crown, area of the avalanche, and more tracks were found where the snow had stopped sliding, in what is known as the debris pile.

"Further investigation of the avalanche yesterday showed goat tracks leading into the crown area of the avalanche. At the debris pile, it was obvious that a goat had taken the full ride in the slide that it triggered. There was a depression in the debris pile where the critter had come to rest at the surface, and obvious hoof prints trailing away from the debris pile."

The avalanche was a relatively large one, with a 2-foot thick slab of snow that traveled 1,000 feet down the mountain. Ski patrollers rated it a 2.5 on the destructive scale, meaning it landed somewhere between potentially killing a person and destroying a small building. Despite that, it was apparently no match for the mountain goat.

According to the report, ski patrollers found no blood and the tracks out of the debris pile looked normal, with no sign that the goat had broken any legs. Its tracks apparently led back upslope, where it presumably rejoined its herd with quite the story to tell.

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