Other Large Mammals
The remarkable rock-climbing ability of these nimble-footed creatures allows them to live on rocky ledges or near-vertical slopes, safe from predators. They also frequent the alpine meadows and open forests of the Rockies, where they congregate around natural salt licks. The goats stand one meter (3.3 feet) at the shoulder and weigh 80–130 kilograms (175–290 pounds). Both sexes possess black horns and a peculiar beard, or rather, goatee.
Bighorn sheep are found on grassy mountain slopes throughout the mountains. The males have impressive horns that curve backward up to 360 degrees. The color of their coat varies with the season; in summer it is brownish gray (with a cream-colored belly and rump), turning grayer in winter.
Found roaming the prairie grasslands of southeastern Alberta and as far west as Cardston, the pronghorn, often called pronghorn antelope, is one of the fastest animals in the New World, capable of sustained speeds up to 80 kilometers per hour (50 miles per hour). Other remarkable attributes also ensure its survival, including incredible hearing and eyesight, and the ability to go without water for long periods.
Conservative estimates put the population of bison at approximately 60 million before the coming of Europeans. Within Alberta, these shaggy beasts are found in Elk Island and Wood Buffalo National Parks and in several privately owned herds throughout the province. Two subspecies of bison inhabit Alberta, but they have mostly interbred. Wood bison are darker in color, larger (an average bull weighs 840 kg/1,850 pounds), and have long, straight hair covering the forehead. Plains bison are smaller, have shorter legs, a larger head, and frizzy hair. In summer they grow distinctive capes of woolly hair that cover their front legs, head, and shoulders.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition