A mountain goat grazes on Klahhane Ridge in Olympic National Park in 2017. (Michael J. Foster/Peninsula Daily News)

A mountain goat grazes on Klahhane Ridge in Olympic National Park in 2017. (Michael J. Foster/Peninsula Daily News)

Goat relocation efforts begin today in Olympic National Park

PORT ANGELES — Starting today a coalition of state and federal agencies, with support from local tribes, will begin translocating mountain goats from Olympic National Park to the northern Cascade Mountains.

Aerial capture operations will be conducted through a contract with a private company that specializes in the capture and transport of wild animals, according to a press release.

The helicopter crew will use tranquilizer darts and net guns to capture mountain goats and transport them in specially made slings to the staging area on Hurricane Hill Road beyond the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center in Olympic National Park. The staging area will be closed to public access.

The effort is a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS), the state Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) and the USDA Forest Service (USFS) to re-establish and assist in connecting depleted populations of mountain goats in the Washington Cascades.

“The translocation effort will relieve issues with non-native mountain goats in the Olympics while bolstering depleted herds in the northern Cascades,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. “Mountain goats cause significant impacts to the park ecosystem as well as public safety concerns.”

Tribes lending support to the translocation plan in the Cascades include the Lummi, Muckleshoot, Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Swinomish, Tulalip and Upper Skagit tribes.

In May, the NPS released the final Mountain Goat Management Plan which outlines the effort to remove the estimated 725 mountain goats on the Olympic Peninsula. Both the plan and the associated environmental impact statement were finalized after an extensive public review process that began in 2014.

This month’s two-week effort to move mountain goats to native habitat in the northern Cascades is the first translocation operation since the release of the final Mountain Goat Management Plan. Two additional two-week periods are planned for next year. Mountain goats were introduced to the Olympics in the 1920s.

“Mountain goat relocation will allow these animals to reoccupy historical range areas in the Cascades and increase population viability,” said Jesse Plumage, USFS wildlife biologist, in a press release.

While some mountain goat populations in the north Cascades have recovered since the 1990s, the species is still absent from many areas of its historic range.

The animals will be examined by veterinarians before WDFW wildlife managers transport them overnight to staging areas in the north Cascades for release the following day.

To maximize success, goats will be brought directly to alpine habitats that have been selected for appropriate characteristics. To access these areas, goats will be airlifted in their crates by helicopter.

WDFW plans to release the mountain goats at five selected sites in the Cascades this month.

Two release areas are near mountain peaks south of the town of Darrington, on the Darrington District of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (MBS).

The others are near Mount Index, on the Skykomish Ranger District of the MBS, Tower Peak in the Methow area of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and the headwaters of the Cedar River Drainage, which is land owned by Seattle Public Utilities.

Mountain goats follow and approach hikers because they are attracted to the salt from their sweat, urine, and food.

That behavior is less likely in the north Cascades where visitors are more widely distributed than those at Olympic National Park, said Rich Harris, a WDFW wildlife manager who specializes in mountain goats.

“In addition, the north Cascades has an abundance of natural salt licks, while the Olympic Peninsula has virtually none,” Harris said. “Natural salt licks greatly reduce mountain goats’ attraction to people.”

In 2010, Bob Boardman of Port Angeles was fatally gored by a mountain goat on Klahhane Ridge in Olympic National Park.

For more information about mountain goats in Washington State, see WDFW’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/living/mountain_goats.html.

Along with the staging area closure on Hurricane Hill Road, several trails in Olympic National Park will be closed for visitor and employee safety during helicopter operations. For more information and updates, visit www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/mountain-goat-capture-and-translocation.htm.

A group of mountain goats graze on Klahhane Ridge in Olympic National Park in 2017. (Michael J. Foster/Peninsula Daily News)

A group of mountain goats graze on Klahhane Ridge in Olympic National Park in 2017. (Michael J. Foster/Peninsula Daily News)

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