The rugged cliffs of Mount Juneau have been a draw for mountain goats lately, giving local residents several opportunities to glimpse the sure-footed animals.
Juneau photographer Pat Costello spent much of last week watching fog dissipate into crystal-clear afternoons as he headed inside for Alaska Board of Game meetings. After the board protected a white-colored black bear photographed by Costello earlier this year, Mount Juneau finally got the best of him, he said.
Costello spotted six goats on Saturday, although he estimates there probably were more. It's unusual for Mount Juneau to be free of snow this time of year, he added.
"Usually in the spring and fall you can see goats on Mount Juneau. It's been like that for the last four or five years," he said. "Every year I watch them pretty closely."
Costello climbed the mountain, sat still and turned his camera to one young goat that came within 15 feet. The animal might have been a billy, although it was hard to tell, he said.
"I'm thrilled. I don't think I've ever had a photo thing go quite so smoothly," he said. "It was kind of like it wanted its picture taken."
Mountain goats mate in November and December. A single kid usually is born in late May or early June after a gestation period of approximately 180 days, according to the Alaska Department of Fish andgame. Mountain goats can live 14 to 15 years, although most live fewer than 12.
The Juneau Audubon Society helped Fish and Game repopulate Mount Juneau with mountain goats from Tracy Arm in 1989. Polly Hessing, assistant area wildlife biologist with Fish and Game, said the goats Costello spotted might be related.
Hessing counted 10 goats on Mount Juneau last week and spotted a nanny and kid in the spring, she said.
"In the winter, the goats typically come down to the timber to seek protection, so they're hidden," she said. "And if they're in the snow, they're white. I don't know how much people in the summer see them."
Hunting mountain goats on Mount Juneau is illegal though it is allowed, with restrictions, in other parts of Southeast Alaska.
While the unstable cliffs of Mount Juneau present little challenge for mountain goats, Costello strongly advises people to avoid the mountain's hazards. The best way to see the goats is to bring binoculars and a spotting scope to Basin Road and stay put, he said.
"It's icy up above and conditions are changing every day," he said. "The goats have been right up above Basin Road in the rocks there and the gully to the left."
Mountain goat photos can be found on Pat Costello's Web site, www.juneauphotos.com/.
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.