Mayo, Ireland, April 2023
I went for an evening walk down the old trackway to the foot of the mountain. The track was flooded, meaning that without wellies I had to find tussocks and rocks to move further. Where the track turned, I noticed a ram of some kind grazing up ahead. After a time, I realised it was a goat, most likely a wild goat from the flock that roams the mountain. I had never seen one so close before and began to feel some concern for it. Why was it down here in the floodplain rather than up there out of reach among the boulders and bogs?
Its bleating was weak, distressed. I felt anxiety rising, that I needed to act. I looked at my phone about guidance for finding a wild animal of this size, but it was stuff I already knew and I realised I wasn’t acting rationally. I walked forward, a little fearful that the goat may show aggression, so when it turned to look at me, I backed away and waited.
The goat lowered itself to a sitting position, bleating in a way that suggested distress, weakness. Its voice was breaking, fading. It tried to stand but its legs gave way. It lay with its head on the ground, bleating again. I hadn’t moved, realising what was happening. Its stomach stopped moving. I approached it where it lay, its ears and lips were trembling. Then, stillness. Its eye remained open, and did not move. It had passed away.
A life lived wild on the mountain had ended at its foot, in a very short space of time. There was very little visible suffering, though some fear as it realised it was losing its ability to graze and trot.
I continued on and headed up the mountain. Seeing the death of the wild goat made me want to press on, a gentle reminder that all life has its limits. To the west, Nephin appeared in the distance, Lough Conn as silvery as ever at its foot. In the south-west Croagh Patrick could be see behind a rank of wind turbines. As I reached a curve in the path, where a cleft had been carved into the hillside, a small group of wild goats appeared on the hilltop. We watched eachother for a while, before they headed off out of sight.
I reached the top for the first time since 2017. A broken flock of sheep circled me against the horizon of rocky outcrops, mountains and distant loughs. Being up there will always remind me of the times me and my Dad made it up, always out of breath and red-faced.
Surrounded by bogs and scars of turf cutting, I looked down to try find an unusual species of some kind that I might not see elsewhere, due to the remoteness of the place. Down in a small bit of bog, with sphagnum and other mosses, a group of golden mushrooms were growing.
I had a second camera with me that had a macro lens attached for ease. I took some photos, unsure of the species. Its gills were not unlike a waxcap (hygrocybe) but I knew so little about boglife that I was happy simply to find some shrooms.
I’m still waiting on feedback on iNaturalist, so this remains a mystery. Unless someone reading this knows and can add some information in the comments?
I headed back down the mountain and along the track. There the wild goat rested. I hadn’t imagined its death, and it wasn’t trying to fool me. I went back to the cottage unnerved, reminding myself of a life lived wild and free in the Ox Mountains.
Thanks for reading.