Relation between mountain goats and their habitat in south eastern Alaska
Mountain goats in southeastern Alaska occupy habitats providing abundant areas of high quality forage during summer but only limited feeding areas during winter because of deep snow. Winter is a period of severe nutritional deprivation, and goats converge into areas with available forage, often within old-growth forest where relatively low snow depths and litterfall enhance food availability. Goats are further restricted in their habitat use to sites within and near steep and rugged terrain, which provides escape areas from predation by wolves. Because goat winter habitat is limited, even small areas of habitat alteration that impinge on these sites can have a disproportionally large effect on the goat populations concentrated there. Removal .of old-growth forest would decrease available forage and thus lower the quality of goat wintering sites when snowpacks are present. Whereas the effects of forest management might be locally important for goats, the total amount of goat habitat subject to this or other habitat alteration is likely to be small and should not greatly affect goat carrying capacity in south eastern Alaska. But, where forest management or other human land use occurs within goat habitat, the limited areas of actual conflict may make avoidance of critical goat habitat practical. Research is needed on digestive physiology of goats, habitat use by goats within the critical areas surrounding escape terrain, and the relations of forest management to goat populations.