There’s nothing like the feeling of sweet relief after walking into an air-conditioned room in the middle of a heatwave. Mountain goats, an iconic species that thrives in alpine habitats such as Montana’s Glacier National Park, feel the same way on hot summer days, only they cool off using glaciers and snow patches instead of AC units or central air.
Unfortunately, glaciers and snow patches are rapidly declining around the world, due to human-driven climate change. The loss of these important environments is increasing the odds of heat stress and hyperthermia in mountain goats, according to a study
published on Wednesday in PLOS One
“Mountain goats need cooling,” said study co-author Joel Berger, a senior scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and a professor in wildlife biology at Colorado State University, in a call. “They just don’t seem to have the thermal flexibility that we see in some of these other large mammals.”
While scientists have been aware of the vulnerability of goats
to climate change for years, there hasn’t been much observational research about the specific benefits of their snowy havens to their overall health. Berger and his colleagues aimed to fill this gap with their study, which is based on GPS satellite tracking of collared mountain goats in Glacier National Park, as well as onsite observations of the animals during the summers of 2013 to 2016.