Ask Zimo: It's always great to see one of Idaho's shy mountain goats

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comAugust 15, 2013 

Q: A couple of weeks ago my son, grandson and I were returning from a fly-fishing trip on the Middle Fork of the Boise River and had a surprising encounter with a mountain goat.

It was between the road and the river, about 15 yards from us. He looked like a billy with 6- to 7-inch horns.

When we stopped, he ran into the willows and disappeared. We were about halfway between the confluence of the North Fork and the Twin Springs store.

I am a lifetime Idaho resident and an avid outdoorsman and had never seen one in the wild before. I'm curious, if this is unusual for one to be so low, and where did it come from?


A: In Idaho you have to hike to high elevations and be pretty lucky to see mountain goats.

I've seen them in the Seven Devils and on the high cliffs overlooking Hells Canyon Dam. We've also got them in places like the Sawtooth and Boulder mountains.

Your low-elevation sighting was really unusual, so I went to Idaho Fish and Game with your inquiry.

"Considering the location, this is certainly a very unusual and fascinating sighting," said Jon Rachael, state wildlife game manager.

Mountain goats will roam, but they usually stick to the mountain tops. They will come down to get water, graze or to travel to mineral licks, Rachael said.

"I'm not aware of any other sightings of mountain goats in the area," he said.

There's a resident mountain goat population in the cliffy, mountainous country in the headwaters of the North and Middle forks of the Boise River, way upstream from your sighting.

There used to be a few mountain goats about 15 to 20 miles away on Steel Mountain, and there are a fair number of mountain goats north and east of Atlanta (about 30 miles away).

"That's about the closest mountain goats I'm aware of in the area," he said.


Q: Really liked your story on the hiking conditions in the wilderness (Aug. 11) but wish the Statesman would publish a map with it, to put it in better context for those of us who only know the main roads!

C.W., via email

A: It's difficult to put a detailed map in the newspaper with limited space, but there's a good way to get the lay of the land.

Check out Benchmark Maps' Idaho Road & Recreation Atlas.

It offers details on trails in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and other parts of the state.

I carry a copy of Idaho and Oregon atlases in my rig. They cost about $23. Go to

National Geographic Topo Map computer programs used to be available state by state, but they've been discontinued.

I've got two of them installed on my computer, and they're quick references whenever I need help charting a course in the backcountry. I've got Oregon and Idaho.

You might still be able to get them on eBay or, I don't know.

Still, there's something about having a good detailed topo map of the terrain you're going to cover.

Idaho Blueprint & Supply at 619 Main St. in Boise is still your best place to get hard-copy topo maps. Call 344-7878.


Q: I'm having bird wars out here in Southwest Boise.

The hummingbirds are dive-bombing each other over my bright-orange trumpet vine flowers and deep-pink hanging and trailing geraniums.

I don't put out feeders. Why bother when I have the natural stuff with my flowers?

What I want to know is what kind of hummingbirds do we have in the Valley?


A: We've got hummingbirds buzzing all over the place, too.

It seems to be a busy summer for hummers in the Treasure Valley. Maybe the fires are driving them into town - who knows?

Anyway, I contacted Idaho Fish and Game with your question.

"The black-chinned is by far the most common," said Colleen Moulton, avian ecologist with Fish and Game.

She said calliope and rufous hummingbirds can also be seen regularly in the area.

It sounds like you're having fun bird-watching. The problem with hummers is that you have to duck every once in a while if you're on the deck or in the garden.

And, if you're wearing bright colors, watch out.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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