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Book Review: A Beast the Color of Winter

Mountain goats in the Mount Evans Wilderness Area, CO.

I stumbled upon this title while doing research for a mountain goat hunt that I wanted to go on upon moving to Colorado. I’ve been fascinated with the critters since I was a boy, getting to see some up close and personal during my first trip out West in high school. I was able to see even more upon moving here, targeting hikes to the high rocky cliffs the beasts live, and thrive on.

The Beast the Color of Winter by Douglas Chadwick is a great introduction to the high mountain climber for people who cannot spend all of their waking hours with the mysterious beasts. It details his research into mountain goats from the 70’s into the 80’s enduring many cold winters in and around Glacier National Park in order to observe the white ghosts of the mountain in their natural habitat during all seasons. He is pragmatic about the encroachment of civilization on the habitat of mountain goats, the need for oil and gas development as well as logging and how they as well as the habits of wildlife managers attempting to manage a herd for sustainable harvest pick at herd numbers.

The author details everything from how Oreamnos uses the landscape to what they eat and how they behave. His writing style is informed by the classics, likely having a lot of time to read on the mountain between being weathered in and days where there was simply not enough light to do the job at hand. His reading certainly was not informed by the cans of corn he and his fellow researchers were often forced to read on many lonely days searching for an outlet deep in the mountains. The book is heavily biological, as to be expected in a treatise about the life and times of any critter — and it gives a better understanding as to all aspects of its life. The bibliography is intense and well sourced as I’d expect from any academic turned book writer, and there are a great deal of interesting tidbits between the studies he cites and the footnotes sprinkled throughout the text.

It can be a little dry and academic at times, but the book flows well, and I think has informed me as someone who enjoys hunting them with binoculars and backpacks as much as I dream of one day pulling a tag to hunt the mountain goat with a rifle and scope. If you’re interested even remotely about mountain goats, or planning a hunt anywhere Oreamnos is found, I’d highly recommend putting this on your reading list.

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Last modified: February 29, 2020