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Mountain goat kills grizzly bear by stabbing it with razor-sharp horns

A mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) with its razor-sharp horns, used for self-defense. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

After being attacked by a female grizzly bear, a (very fortunate) mountain goat seems to have fought back, ultimately using its horns to impale and kill the furry predator, according to an analysis of the bear’s corpse by Parks Canada.

Hikers discovered the body of the 154-pound (70 kilograms) female grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) just off a popular hiking route on Sept. 4. Park rangers quickly airlifted the carcass away from the trail to make sure that it did not attract additional predators and put hikers in danger. 

Officials initially weren't sure what had killed the female grizzly, which appeared to have been stabbed by something around the neck and armpit. A necropsy (animal autopsy) was carried out on the remains and revealed a surprising culprit.

Related: The 10 weirdest medical cases in the animal kingdom

"The forensic necropsy subsequently confirmed that the wounds incurred before death were consistent with the size and shape of mountain goat horns," David Laskin, a wildlife ecologist at Parks Canada, told local news outlet Rocky Mountain Outlook.

The location of the wounds on the grizzly's neck and armpit suggest that the goat, as it was being attacked by the bear, was able to pierce the bear with its horns.

Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) are one of the main predators of mountain goats. (Image credit: Shutterstock )

"When grizzly bears attack, they tend to focus on the head, back of the neck and the shoulders of the prey, and it's usually from above — so, in turn, the defensive response of the mountain goat would be to protect itself using its sharp horns," Laskin said. "I guess the mountain goat was successful in this instance and turned the tables on the grizzly." 

Although it is very rare for a mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) to survive a bear attack, let alone kill the bear, it is not unheard of.

"Other cases of mountain goats defensively killing bears have been reported in the past," Laskin told Rocky Mountain Outlook. "This is not completely surprising, since mountain goats are strong animals that are well equipped to defend themselves."

Male mountain goats can weigh up to 300 pounds (136 kg), according to National Geographic, and their incredible climbing ability can give them an edge over grizzlies on steep terrain. In 2018, passersby captured a video of a mountain goat female and child escaping a grizzly bear in the Canadian Rockies by waiting on a narrow ledge that the bear had no hope of reaching. 

In the most recent situation, the grizzly was also quite small, even compared with other female bears, which can reach 800 pounds (360 kg), according to the National Wildlife Federation, more than five times the weight of the dead grizzly. The necropsy also showed that the bear had not given birth to any cubs in its lifetime, suggesting that it was not yet fully mature, according to Rocky Mountain Outlook.

The unfortunate young bear may quite literally have tried to bite off more than it could chew.

Originally published on Live Science.

Harry Baker

Harry is a U.K.-based staff writer at Live Science. He studied Marine Biology at the University of Exeter (Penryn campus) and after graduating started his own blog site "Marine Madness," which he continues to run with other ocean enthusiasts. He is also interested in evolution, climate change, robots, space exploration, environmental conservation and anything that's been fossilized. When not at work he can be found watching sci-fi films, playing old Pokemon games or running (probably slower than he'd like).