It’s called yule goat climbing.
It’s a rite of passage for thousands of white-tailed deer to reach adulthood.
But the same can’t be said for the tiny mountain goats who make their home in Yellowstone National Park.
And even with the best of intentions, the animals can be dangerous.
“When you see a white-tailed deer, it’s just like, Oh my god, that’s so cool, I’m going to climb up on that, I can’t imagine anything else,” said Jason Tuck, a mountain goat handler for Yellowstone National Parks.
“You know, I just don’t know how they survive that, but they’re a wild animal, they’re not domesticated.”
Tuck is one of the first mountain goats trained by the National Park Service in the 1970s, and now manages the mountain goat rescue and rehabilitation program for Yellowstone.
Since he started, he’s seen dozens of white and black mountain goats climb to the top of the world.
“We have hundreds of these little guys, we’re looking at them on our phone, looking at the camera,” Tuck said.
“They’re doing it with their eyes closed.
They’re very curious.”
In addition to the obvious danger of falling off the mountain, mountain goats can be incredibly aggressive.
Tuck sees one white-tail climbing up a ridge in a parking lot and jumps in the back of his truck, shouting, “Get out of the way!”
He also has to deal with a black-tailed mountain goat, who can be more aggressive than the white-tails.
Tucks said mountain goats are extremely territorial.
“If they see another white-eyed goat, it can be a little bit of a fight,” he said.
Tucking says that’s just part of their natural behavior, but he’s learned to take the mountain goats seriously.
He’s trained them to watch out for their surroundings.
He said if a white dog is running loose, he will let it go.
“It’s an instinct.
It doesn’t have to be, like, ‘Oh my God, he just ran away,'” he said, “it can be, ‘No, I don’t want that dog back, I want him to stay where he is.'”
It’s also important to know that these mountain goats aren, in fact, part of a much bigger ecosystem.
Tink says he’s noticed an increase in the number of white foxes in Yellowstone over the past few years.
“I mean, I think there’s an abundance of them, but I think it’s the white fox population that has really grown and really taken off, that really has started to impact the white goats,” he told Fox News.
Tucker said that, despite their small size, mountain goat numbers are on the rise.
“A lot of the older white-footed deer in Yellowstone are dying off, and we have these baby white-horned deer, and they’re being pushed into the wilderness,” he explained.
“There’s a lot of habitat loss.”
For the past 20 years, Tuck has seen mountain goats at the edge of the park.
“Now we have some of these white-headed deer on the edges of the land, they’ve really begun to take over and start competing with white-backed deer,” he added.
“White-tailed Deer is a pretty unique species.
They can live up to 30 years.
They are a very aggressive species, so they are pretty tough to handle.”
Tucker believes there is a greater danger of humans entering the park, and he has heard many stories from park visitors about people driving into the park and climbing onto the goats.
He says the safety of the animals is also of paramount concern.
“The reason they’re so good climbers, is because they have to get up there and climb and they can’t get out of there,” he noted.
“And if they fall, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a problem.”
But it is.
Tucked said the only way to keep mountain goats safe is to train them to follow proper safety protocols.
“Most of the times when you do that, you get a few more,” he continued.
“But they’re very good climbers.
If you don’t do the right things, the whole ecosystem is going to fall apart.”
For more on this story, watch the full segment on Fox News Friday.