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As the weather gets colder and snowier, it’s hard not to envy mountain goats.

These white animals with shaggy hair seem to have no problem staying warm in the winter and even like to live high up in the frosty mountains where it gets very cold. The Spanish even call them “snow goats,” according to the book “Large Mammals of the Rocky Mountains” by Red Lodge author and photographer Jack Ballard.

If you have ever been to Glacier National Park or hiked in the Beartooth Mountains, you may have seen mountain goats. Males are called “billies,” the females are “nannies” and the babies are “kids.”

Although both male and female mountain goats have horns, the males horns are more curved from front to back. The females’ horns go more straight up and then back.

Billies are also usually bigger. A large male can weigh up to 300 pounds. Females are more likely to weigh around 130 to 185 pounds, Ballard writes.

Mountain goats are not related to wild or farm-raised goats. They are a unique species only found in North America, according to Ballard. Instead, mountain goats are more closely related to musk ox, another shaggy beast that does well in the cold north.

One of the coolest things about mountain goats is their ability to climb around on steep cliffs. They look fearless when standing on high rocks. Their great balance is partly because of their wide feet with two large toes. The bottom of their feet is rough, helping them grip onto rocks and cliffs.

If you see goats, do not approach them even though they look friendly. Goats have been known to use their sharp horns to poke people on hiking trails, so give them space.

— Brett French, french@billingsgazette.com

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