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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Observability and habitat characteristics of the mountain goat (oreamnos americanus blainville, 1816) in West-Central British Columbia Foster, Bryan Richard


Mountain goat spatial distribution, observability and utilization of habitat types was investigated from May, 1976 to August, 1978. Data were collected by systematically viewing mountain goats from the ground along a fixed transect. Mountain goats were contagiously distributed within the study area, with 99.5 percent of all observed groups occurring on southerly-facing slopes of Maroon Mountain. Areas of monthly range use overlapped extensively. The highest levels of contagion occurred during August and December and were correlated with increases in group size. Kidding and rutting locations were generally clumped in their distributions, but no geographic concentrations occurred. The population was estimated at 137 animals, comprising 90 females and 47 males. Mountain goats were most observable between February and May, however, only 42 percent of the population was visible, on average. Representative portions of the female component (i.e. >50% of the estimated total) were observed during 13 of 16 months examined, however, male representation was evident in only 6 months for the same period. Females were more observable than males because they occurred in larger groups, utilized less densely-vegetated terrain at most times of the year, and spent more time active. The observed mountain goats did not utilize biotic or abiotic habitats equally, nor in constant proportions. Direct south-facing, scarcely-vegetated areas were predominantly used year round and consisted primarily of a broken rock substrate on bluffs or outcrops between 35 and 41° slope. Deciduous shrublands were heavily utilized during spring 'green-up'. Densely vegetated areas were used by mountain goats during periods of extreme (hot or cold) temperature and wind. Many goats were located in the alpine during the summer, but in the subalpine during other seasons. Nearly half of all mountain goat observations were located in the vicinity of treeline. Goats did not appear to prefer habitats warmed by atmospheric thermal inversions during winter. Group composition affected habitat selection. Male-only groups displayed far less frequent choice of habitat than their female counterparts. This may be attributed to the dominant status and higher production requirements of reproductive females. Male-only groups spent more .time resting than feeding or travelling. Proportionately more time was spent resting in preferred habitats. Mixed-female groups were observed to spend more time feeding than resting or travelling. Some preferred habitats were used primarily for feeding, while others were used mainly for resting. In light of the potential biases involved with observation techniques, it is felt that inter-population comparisons of population structure and range use should be treated with caution, particularly when populations occupy different biotopes and have been subjected to varying levels of hunting or other forms of human disturbance. The fulfilment of current harvest strategies of the species cannot be monitored without more accurate inventory techniques.

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