EATONVILLE — Ten mountain goat kids from the Olympic Mountains are living “behind the scenes” at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park while they are prepared for eventual transfer to regional zoos.
“They move as a unit, like one organism,” said Northwest Trek veterinarian Dr. Allison Case, “so staying with each other during this transition was essential for their well-being.
“They’re really settling in well and are in good health.”
The kids are either orphans or were separated from their mothers during the summer’s roundup of non-native mountain goats from Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest, a collaborative effort among the National Park Service, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service and area tribes, along with staff from Northwest Trek and Oregon Zoo.
During this summer’s collaboration, 177 goats were moved to different locations in the Cascades, where they are native. Since September 2018, a total of 275 mountain goats have been translocated, with five kids given a home at Northwest Trek last year.
Officials try to keep nannies and kids together so they can be released together, but sometimes it wasn’t possible, said Penny Wagner, Olympic National Park spokeswoman.
Sometimes a mother was nowhere to be found when crews capture young goats. Some adults have died during the transfer.
“The capture crew did everything they could to keep kids and mothers together,” Wagner said.
Survival rates for kids in the wild is often low, she added.
“The goal is to give those kids the highest chance for survival.”
Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, the Oregon Zoo and the Woodland Park Zoo are providing homes for the young goats.
The latest batch of 10 kids are the largest group of mountain goats the Eatonville wildlife park has ever cared for. One kid – a female – will join the other goats in the wildlife park’s 435-acre Free-Roaming Area. The other nine will move to new homes at regional zoos: one to Woodland Park Zoo; two each to Oregon Zoo and Wildwood Zoo, Wis.; three to Hemker Zoo, Minn. and one more zoo yet to be confirmed.
The goats were introduced to the Olympic Peninsula as game animals in the 1920s before Olympic National Park existed. It is estimated that the population had grown to about 600 goats in Olympic National Park.
Officials decided to move the goats because they felt they impact the ecosystem badly and that they had become too comfortable around humans. Some goats became aggressive in their search for salts in human urine and sweat. Bob Boardman, a Port Angeles man, was killed by a goat that gored him as he hiked Klahhane Ridge in October 2010.
Over several weeks in August, goats were tranquilized, captured, blindfolded and taken dangling from slings under helicopters to staging areas at Hurricane Ridge and Hamma Hamma.
There, Case and veterinary technician Tracy Cramer, along with veterinary teams from the agencies and Oregon Zoo, gave each goat a thorough check-up, including measurements, weights, samples and any needed vitamins or medications.
Ten of the kids were transported by keepers Ed Cleveland and Dave Meadows to Northwest Trek for stabilization, acclimation and socialization, living out of the view of visitors.
When the kids arrived at Northwest Trek, Case had arranged for two of last year’s goat kids, now one year old, to meet them. This helped the newcomers settle down quickly, she said.
Keepers also built a barn and yard full of goat “furniture” – logs, stumps, platforms and even a playhouse for the young animals to climb on and jump into.
Food choices include hay and alfalfa and fresh-cut browse such as willow, bigleaf maple and alder — and the occasional chopped apple treats.
“That’s a whole new generation of mountain goats, right there,” said Marc Heinzman, Northwest Trek zoological curator.
“We’re pleased we can offer our skills and experience to care for them.”
Another two-week capture and translocation period is planned for summer 2020.
More information about the project and conservation plan can be found on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.