Life on the Rocks

Life on the Rocks

A Portrait of the American Mountain Goat

Bruce L. Smith


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National Outdoor Book Award Winner: A photo-filled study of the elegant, elusive American mountain goat in its rugged natural habitat.
Confined to the remote, rugged mountains of the western United States and Canada, the American mountain goat is one of the least familiar species of hoofed mammals in North America. These extraordinary mountaineers are seldom seen, and their lives and fortunes may be the least understood among the continent’s large mammals. Life on the Rocks offers an intimate portrayal of this remarkable animal through the 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.
“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 New York Times–bestselling author of Falter


Bruce L. Smith:
Bruce L. Smith is a veteran wildlife manager and scientist of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. He is the author of three other books and recipient of a 2012 Montana Book Award for Where Elk Roam. His wildlife conservation blog can be found at