101 mountain goats get new home

Posted 9/18/19

One-hundred and one mountain goats from the Olympic Mountains have a new home in their native Cascade Mountains.

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101 mountain goats get new home

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One-hundred and one mountain goats from the Olympic Mountains have a new home in their native Cascade Mountains.

With the 2019 Olympic mountain goat translocation operation complete, the results are in: a total of 101 were moved from the Olympic National Park and Forest to the Cascades, said park officials on Sept. 12.

Seven mountain goats died in the capture process, with no transfer mortalities or euthanazia. Last year, six died during capture, two died during transport and three were euthanized due to disease or aggressive behavior.

A total of ten mountain goat kids were transferred to Northwest Trek Wildlife Park for stabilization, acclimation and socialization. One kid will join six other goats in the wildlife park’s 435-acre free-roaming area. The other nine will move to new homes at other zoos. A total of 16 mountain goat kids have been given permanent homes in zoos: six in 2018 and ten in 2019.

Over the course of two years, a total of 275 mountain goats have been translocated.

“We were very fortunate to have a long stretch of good weather in August which enabled us to safely catch mountain goats throughout the Olympics and make good progress towards reaching our translocation goals,” said Patti Happe, Wildlife Branch Chief at Olympic National Park.

There are plans in the works for an additional two-week capture and translocation period in summer of 2020.

The Olympic mountain goat population, estimated at 725 in 2018, was introduced by Canadian hunters in the 1920s. The small population thrived, topping 1,000 by the 1980s. However, the goats present a problem to the native flora and fauna of the Olympics, according to Olympic National park biologist Patti Happe. They enjoy wallowing in the dirt, tearing up native flora in the process and potentially disrupting the usual activity of native species such as marmots. They also have a strong craving for salt, but since the park has few salt pockets, they turn to hikers’ urine for their fix.

“They’ve learned that an easy, ready source of salt is people, and they’re not afraid of people because we’re a national park, and so they will follow you on the trail until you stop to urinate,” Happe said.

In the past, goats have become aggressive. In 2012, Port Townsend resident Bob Boardman was killed by a billy on the Hurricane Ridge trail.

While Olympic National Park officials are hoping to see the goats extirpated, officials from the Cascades are eager to see their goat population rise, as it has fallen over the years and the goats, native to those mountains, are considered a positive part of the ecosystem.

Release areas were chosen based on the quality of mountain goat habitat, proximity to the staging areas, and limited disturbance to recreationists, according to a press release from the National Forest Service. Weather complicated airlifting goats to preferred locations on six days, but crews were able to airlift goats to alternative locations.

Release sites in the Cascades included Cadet Ridge and Cadet Creek, Milk Lakes on Lime Ridge, Pear Lake, and between Prairie and Whitechuck Mountains on the Darrington Ranger District of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest; between Vesper and Big Four Mountains on Washington Department of Natural Resource Lands; on Hardscrabble Ridge and privately-held land; and near Tower Mountain on the Methow Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

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