On my trip to Glacier National Park, I spotted this family of mountain goats. They were perched on the rocks across the river. I zoomed in on them with the camera to get a better look. Why are the goats licking the rocks? What is the medical purpose of this behavior?
Mountain goats are herbivores who normally eat woody shrubs, moss, lichens and a variety of grasses. This type of diet is low in salt so the goats must find it elsewhere. At Glacier National Park, many goats congregate at an area appropriately called the ‘goat lick’. They ingest salt and other minerals from the exposed rock on the side of the cliff. Other herbivores such as moose, deer and elk eat grass along roadways to fulfill their salt needs. One example of a useful benefit to the animals from sharing the neighborhood with humans involves meeting this dietary requirement. Salt used during the winter to melt snow and ice washes into the soil and becomes a ‘salt lick’ of sorts. The mountain goats stick to the rocks instead of roadways owing to the safety it provides them from predators.