Mountain goats seek snow to shake off insects

Losing summer snow patches may hit mountain goats hard, according to a study that suggests that goats seek out snow to avoid biting insects.

Many cold-adapted species take advantage of patches of snow that linger through the summer, as corridors for travel, sources of drinking water, zones for cooling off, or places to play. As the climate changes, many species will have reduced access to snow patches.

🌌 Science is not just a subject; it’s a way of life. Embrace your inner scientist with our “Science is Golden” tee. Elevate your fashion game while celebrating the beauty of discovery. Shop now!

Forest Hayes and Joel Berger explored what this lack of summer snow might mean for mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) in Glacier National Park, which has lost 85% of its glaciers since 1850.

The team studied goats in the park—along with another population 1,000 km south—completely non-invasively, by filming them using telephoto lenses and counting the number of flank movements per 15-second time interval to calculate respiration rate, as well as the number of ear-flicks per 15-second time interval to measure insect disturbance. Although the authors initially hypothesized that snow patches would offer heat relief, which would slow respiration, it was ear flicking that showed a strong correlation with the presence of snow. Insect disturbance is more than a nuisance for many animals.

Sign up for the Daily Dose Newsletter and get every morning’s best science news from around the web delivered straight to your inbox? It’s easy like Sunday morning.

Success! You're on the list.

A heavy tick infestation can kill a moose calf. Less is known about their effect on mountain goats, but losing the relief from biting insects provided by a snow patch may increase their risk of local extirpation.

IMAGE CREDIT: Forest P. Hayes

If you enjoy the content we create and would like to support us, please consider becoming a patron on Patreon! By joining our community, you’ll gain access to exclusive perks such as early access to our latest content, behind-the-scenes updates, and the ability to submit questions and suggest topics for us to cover. Your support will enable us to continue creating high-quality content and reach a wider audience.

Join us on Patreon today and let’s work together to create more amazing content!

Animals facing eviction from homes as hotter temperatures spark global displacement
Land animals living in tropical climates around the world are being pushed to …
Getting vaxxed before you catch COVID may help you avoid long COVID
Unvaccinated individuals almost four times as likely to be diagnosed than those …

Leave a Reply