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A Beast the Color of Winter: The Mountain Goat Observed Paperback – April 1, 2002
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"In North America there is one large animal that belongs almost entirely to the realm of towering rock and unmelting snow. Pressing hard against the upper limit of life's possibilities, it exists higher and steeper throughout the year than any other big beast on the continent. It is possibly the best and most complete mountaineer that ever existed on any continent. Oreamnos americanus is its scientific name. Its common name is mountain goat.
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Doesn't sound very exciting, does it? Well, Douglas Chadwick has blown the genre apart. The book includes his personal story of becoming and being a mountain goat biologist, and the joys of wandering around Montana's high country in winter. He tells us about mountain goats and how they live in their challenging habitat. He teaches us about how to identify male and female goats of various ages, mostly in terms of how he figured it out himself. We get to observe goat sex but, again, we learn it through his eyes. (Chadwick also tells us why it matters - - it's really easy for hunters to disrupt goat reproduction.)
Chadwick also sets the stage more fully, discussing the other animals that live in goat country and how their habitats and lifestyles differ from goats. He discusses goat evolution and how the steep cliffs of goat country shape their body shape, behavior, and evolution. He criticizes state game management agencies for assuming (wrongly) that mountain goats behave like other large, hoofed animals and can therefore be hunted at the same rates, in a similarly regulated system.
Last, but certainly not least, he makes an impassioned case for preserving the species and the high country that he loves.
It's highly readable, and if you're looking at this review, you should read it. Then give it to a friend.