Olympic National Park Working On Long-Range Mountain Goat Management Plan

Alternate Text
What to do with non-native mountain goats in Olympic National Park?/NPS

Mountain goats are spectacular animals, even iconic in places such as Glacier National Park, but they can cause problems in parks where they don't belong. At Olympic National Park, where a 1920s era introduction project brought non-native goats into the landscape, officials are embarking on a management plan for how to deal with the animals. Adding weight to the need for such a plan was the fatal goring of a hiker in the park four years ago.

Olympic National Park officials long have grappled with what to do with mountain goats.

By the early 1980s, the goat population in the park grew to over 1,000 individuals. Several hundred goats were removed during the 1980s, reducing the population to less than 400 by 1990. The population was stable at approximately 300 goats from 1994–2004, however it was observed to be increasing at a 5% annual rate in 2011. The original need to manage the goat population was driven by ecological concerns related to the impact of goats on the park’s natural resources, particularly sensitive vegetation communities. New concerns were raised in 2010 when a visitor was fatally gored by a mountain goat while hiking on a park trail.

With hopes of finding an answer to their goat problem, Olympic officials are preparing an environmental impact statement for a Mountain Goat Management plan. Options range from monitoring goats and dealing with "nuisance" animals to removing all goats from the park through a relocation project or killing them outright. To help develop the EIS, the park staff is seeking suggestions from the public on the issue.

“We are pleased to ask the public to help us develop a long-term plan for managing the population of exotic mountain goats in Olympic National Park,” said park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. “We have drafted some preliminary alternative concepts that we’d like the public to reflect and comment on during this initial scoping period. And of course, we are also interested in additional alternative concepts people may have.”

Mountain goats can be found in a number of parks, though perhaps most famously at Glacier, where they are easily found at Logan Pass. The apparent habituation of these goats to hikers has led to research at Glacier into mountain goat behavior around humans. There also are non-native mountain goats that are creating problems for native bighorn sheep in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, some at Yellowstone where they also are considered a non-native threat to park resources, and at North Cascades National Park in Washington's Cascade Range, where they are native.

At Olympic, officails in 2011 instituted a mountain goat management plan, part of which urged hikers not to urinate on trails, as the salty deposits in effect become "long linear salt licks" that lure the goats

Information on the project at Olympic National Park, including the purpose and need for the plan, the plan’s objectives and preliminary alternative concepts developed so far, can be found online. You can even submit your comments from that site, or in writing at one of the three open house workshops listed below. Comments may also be mailed to Superintendent, Olympic National Park, 600 East Park Avenue, Port Angeles, WA 98362. Comments should be submitted no later than September 19, 2014.

Public Scoping Open Houses are planned for mid-August as follows:

* Monday, August 11

Seattle Open House 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Seattle Public Library, Wright/Ketchum Room, Level 4, Room 2

1000 4th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104

206-386-4636

* Tuesday, August 12

Olympia Open House 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Olympic National Forest Headquarters

Willaby-Klahowya-Coho Rooms

1835 Black Lake Blvd Southwest

Olympia, WA 98512

360-956-2303

* Wednesday, August 13

Port Angeles Open House 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Port Angeles Public Library (North Olympic Library System)

2210 S. Peabody Street, Port Angeles, WA 98362

360-417-8500

Comments

I hope they are relocated. Given that they were introduced by "us" as a novelty, and then we changed our minds about them, killing the mountain goats perpetuates a (re)framing of wildlife as disposable items. (My philosophical/Heideggerian rant for the day.) Thanks for the article.

I agree, they should tranqualize, capture, then transfer them to areas of the country where Goat populations have become isolated, but are native. Idaho has many isolated goat populations that could use a genetic boost, and that is native to their range. I also think that if you boost goat numbers, you in turn boost wolverine numbers because they have a co-dependance.

That's very interesting, Gary. How are wolverines and mountain goats co-dependent? My understanding is that wolverines could use some help.

Here's a recent long article proposing the Olympic's non-native goats be captured and relocated to other parts of Washington state where native goat populations have dropped as much as 90% in the past fifty years, probably due to habitat fragmentation and inbreeding:

http://seattletimes.com/html/pacificnw/2023975247_0720goatssurvivalcover...

I worked at OLYM during the 80's goat capture program. It was ended mostly because of serious safety concerns for helo pilots and biotechs involved.

Also, some might be interested in this (~8 min) USFS video "Hiking Safely With Goats", filmed just outside Olympic NP on the popular Mt. Ellinor trail:

http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/olympic/home/?cid=stelprdb5412239

Since they share a similar habitat, Goats are one of the main food sources of the wolverine. During winter, goat mortality can be high, and wolverines will scavenge off the carcass. In fact during that time of year, that's about the only food source available to Wolverines in the higher elevations. Most of the places you can still find populations of wolverines, are in prime goat habitat.

Tahoma, I find it interesting from your link that they seem to be healthy and thriving in the National Parks (Mt Rainier, Olympic, North Cascades, and Glacier) but have trouble in areas outside of those habitats. The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is another spot they seem to be doing ok, which is similar to a NP, but once you get outside of that area, it starts to become fragmented and the populations genetically isolated.

Tahoma and Gary,

Thanks. Really nice addenda to the main article. Learned something new this morning.

Here's a very interesting summary of OLYM's goat management progam from previous decades; note that annual goat mortality during capture and transport was as high as 19%:

http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/science/25/chap14.htm

"Elimination from the park while maintaining sustained yields from the remaining population on the national forest is a variation on option 2 that would leave perhaps 200 goats and seemingly commit the National Park Service to removal of immigrants in perpetuity."

"The bottom line of this overview of management strategies and tactics shows that all control or elimination options will be difficult and expensive to achieve in practice. As difficult and costly as elimination of the metapopulation could be (option 2), sustained control (options 3 and 4) will be more so..."