Life on the Rocks: A Portrait of the American Mountain Goat (Hardcover)

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The American mountain goat is one of the most elusive and least familiar species of hoofed mammals in North America. Confined to the remote and rugged mountains of the western United States and Canada, these extraordinary mountaineers are seldom seen or encountered, even by those who patiently study them. Life on the Rocks offers an intimate portrayal of this remarkable animal through the eyes and lens of field biologist and photographer Bruce Smith.

Color photographs and accounts of Smith's personal experiences living in Montana's Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area accompany descriptions of the American mountain goat's natural history. Smith explores their treacherous habitat, which spans the perilous cliffs and crags of the Rocky, Cascade, and Coast mountain ranges. The physical and behavioral adaptations of these alpine athletes enable them to survive a host of dangers, including six-month-long winters, scarce food sources, thunderous avalanches, social strife, and predators like wolves, bears, lions, wolverines, and eagles. Smith also details the challenges these animals face as their territory is threatened by expanding motorized access, industrial activities, and a warming climate.

Life on the Rocks showcases the elegance and charm of this little-known creature, thriving in some of North America's harshest wilderness. Smith's volume will appeal to wildlife enthusiasts, wildland travelers, and conservationists interested in the future of the American mountain goat.

2014 National Outdoor Book Award winner: Nature & Environment and co-winner: Design and Artistic Merit

About the Author

Bruce L. Smith is a veteran wildlife manager and scientist of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who has spent most of his 30-year federal career managing wildlife populations on the Wind River Indian Reservation and the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming.  His research has produced over 40 technical and popular papers and book chapters focused primarily on large mammal population ecology, diseases, migratory behavior, and predator-prey relationships. He is the author of three other books and recipient of a 2012 Montana Book Award for Where Elk Roam. Learn more about Bruce’s life and work at

Praise For…

"The noble mountain goat is exquisitely adapted to place. As this fine book makes clear, though, people are changing those places, and fast. Here's one more face of creation asking implicitly that we back off some."
—Bill McKibben, environmentalist and author of The End of Nature and Deep Economy
"Life on the Rocks expertly weaves together the ecology and magic of North America's most unique mountain dweller. Using prose as vivid and inspiring as the dramatic photos of mountain goats in their stark, tilted world, Bruce Smith shares his love and knowledge of an animal few will ever see in the wild."
—Chris Smith, Western Field Representative, Wildlife Management Institute
"In both text and stunning images, Bruce Smith reveals his own experience with mountain goats and uses his passion for alpine environments and nature to call attention to the conservation needs of the twenty-first century."
—Steeve Côté, Professor of Biology, Laval University, Quebec, Canada
"Life on the Rocks provides an intimate portrait of this denizen of the heights, drawing upon the rich personal experience of the author as well as the scientific literature. Illustrated with stunning photographs, the book is a call to action for the conservation of mountain goats and their fragile high-elevation ecosystem. It will be of interest to all who appreciate the mountain wilderness."
—Marco Festa-Bianchet, Université de Sherbrooke, Canada
"What's it really like to be a mountain goat, living higher and steeper year-round than any other large mammal in North America? And what does a warming climate hold in store for shaggy wild climbers shaped by the extreme cold and deep snows found among the peaks? Bruce Smith's blend of photography, natural history, wildlife management, and tales of personal adventure is a delightful source of answers."
—Douglas H. Chadwick, author of A Beast the Color of Winter and The Wolverine Way

"An outstanding contribution by a widely recognized expert in wildlife biology.”
—Mike Thompson, Wildlife Manager, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Product Details
ISBN: 9781607322917
ISBN-10: 1607322919
Publisher: University Press of Colorado
Publication Date: June 10th, 2014
Pages: 192
Language: English