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Mountain Goats On The Brink

The largest mountain goat relocation project in American history is set to begin this September in Olympic National Park (“ONP”). Following a lengthy study, the National Park Service (NPS) decided to completely eradicate the entire mountain goat population from ONP over the next three years.  

Mountain goats were introduced to the Olympic Mountains in the late 1920’s and the park service arrived in 1938. In what the park is calling an attempt to preserve native alpine plants, all of ONP’s mountain goats will either be live-captured and relocated or lethally removed.  In essence, the animals that are not successfully captured will be killed.

This fall’s initial capture will be a trial run to what amounts to a monumental and unprecedented relocation attempt coming in 2019 and 2020. The park estimates their goat population around 750 animals. The goal is to live-capture as many animals as possible and to gift them to the state of Washington.  To get a better idea, that is estimated at roughly 15% of the total mountain goat population in the lower 48 states. (I need to double check that number).

Currently, the plan is to relocate the live-captured animals to augment and revitalize native goat populations in Washington State’s Cascade Mountains. A live capture of this many mountain goats has never been attempted. Several agencies and organizations are working together to execute this unprecedented project.

One organization, the Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance, remains actively involved in efforts to capture and relocate as many of the mountain goats as possible.  Conservation dollars have been allocated to the purchasing of several collars to be used by Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to track and study the relocated animals.

After the live-capture phase is deemed complete, the remaining mountain goats will be lethally removed. The current proposal is for the first wave of lethal removal to be executed by vetted backcountry volunteers. Hired government marksmen will likely carry out the final phase of mountain goat removal.

Unfortunately for the mountain goats, the plan is in place and moving forward.  However, there is plenty that can be done to alter the outcome of the relocation effort.  The more people get involved, the higher the number of mountain goats that can be saved. Stay tuned for more ONP mountain goat removal project updates.


About Jason Peak

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Jason Peak is a practicing attorney licensed in Nevada and California. He specializes in civil litigation and holds the highest distinction as a Martindale-Hubbell AV-rated attorney. After receiving a B.A. from the University of Nevada in Criminal Justice and Juris Doctor from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, he grew his practice into one of the largest Nevada-only civil litigation firms in the state. Jason uses his legal background to help hunters maneuver the legal maze of hunting regulations and rules. He is always willing to help hunters with any questions they may have. Jason loves bowhunting and chases trophy big game from California to Wyoming with the occasional stint in Kansas hunting whitetails.

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  1. Scott,
    A large portion of the monies required for this project are from several of Washington’s Safari Club International chapters including the Northwest Chapter & Seattle Puget Sound Chapter. Part of the project includes monitoring of goats post transplant.
    Randy Bauman
    Past President
    SCI-Central Washington Chapter

  2. Wow, this is quite the endeavor. There is a herd of 750 healthy mountain goats in Olympic National Park and in the name of protecting high elevation native plants they are getting rid of the goats. Is this really in the best interest of the goats and the public, thinking not. Find it difficult to see how the NPS puts a project like this way ahead of dealing with aging infrastructure that we all keep hearing about.

  3. There are those in Colorado who want all mountain goats eradicated – they are not indigenous. Dwarfing anything the NPS can cook up is the CENTER for BIOLOGIC DIVERSITY. Best everyone log into their website and see what’s in store for all the hunters and fishermen throughout the country. Some serious horsepower and ugliness behind this group of TH’s. https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/

  4. This issue is not as simple to explain as you might expect. First the Rocky Mountain Goat is not even a goat but belongs to its own species in the antelope family. Second, the effort to decrease the goat population is not new to Washington State’s Olympic National Park. About 15 years ago and after several years of public comment ALL goats were supposedly removed via helicopter extermination. Evidently they did not get them all as the population has rebounded now to an estimate of 750. It is possible that man cannot remove them from the habitat?? Simultaneously other goat units to the east in the state were doing poorly and had their seasons closed or markedly reduced (Snoqualmie and Snohomish passes). Evidently the non-native goats to Olympic National Park have found a great ecosystem they no longer exists in the native-goat areas due to human expansion and industry. The Park has become a haven for the for the non-native goats yet the areas in Washington where goats were native were not doing well! Yes there are plants in the Olympics that occur no where else in the world (Mt Townsend) and are of keen interest to botanists. Man has disturbed much of what was in balance. Who gets precedence? The country is being loved to death as no matter where a hunter would go in Washington there would be a significant number of hikers in the back country. On my goat hunt in Washington this interaction made the opportunity to harvest one of North America’s superb big game animals not much of a hunt – danger for the hunter and the back-packer. The current plan by the NPS is just a red flag to show how much of a huge problem all of us have created and how we may be powerless to stop what all of us have done over the past 150 years.

  5. Interesting… Wild horses & burros are similar; not native, overpopulating & damaging the range BUT the eco & animal rights people got a law passed protecting them….

  6. Have a special hunt drawing for metered goat hunts, donate funds to study goat decline in prospective areas, obviously no one is giving this amazing animal consideration over a PLANT that some dim wit says does not exist anywhere else in the world, Really?? you know for a fact no where else on the planet?? and SCI is funding the catastrophe?? Are you kidding me??
    Where is PETA on all this?? If hunters groups can’t stop this maybe we need PETA to come to the rescue.

  7. Yes SCI is funding translocation to curb the potential for higher rates of lethal removal. SCI is also funding the followup study of translocated goats to monitor how they blend into existing herds over time. At least we may stabilize or grow herds not doing so well. I totally agree that the whole thing is a disaster, but we have to try to save what we can & bolster existing populations.

  8. Think about the bright side, where they are being relocated in WA state’s North Cascades we hunters will at least be able to go after them. No Hunting in the ONP. I’m not a huge flower sniffer or anything but I have heard many anecdotal accounts of the ONP goats harrassing hikers. However, I don’t know if this project is feasible on the given short timeline ; we are talking EXTREMELY steep rugged terrain with huge old growth timber and brush like nowhere else. I dont think hunters can really get them all, like 15 years ago. Maybe if they introduce wolves that would actually wipe the goats out. HI-Ya ! chew on that for awhile… Stir that pot !

  9. I’m pretty sure the hunting community here in Idaho would trade a few Wolfs and even a couple of grizzly’s for a few Goats.. Just saying..

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