Mountain goats have “tested the patience” of officials at Olympic National Park in Washington. So much so that the Park Service recently submitted a plan that includes “eliminating” the mountain goats with high powered rifles and shotguns.
The NPS plan, which will be in the comment phase through late September, includes three actionable options.
Capture the mountain goats within the park and relocate them to where they’re native in the North Cascades National Forests.
Lethally remove the mountain goats with shotguns and high-powered rifles.
Use a combination of capture and relocation along with lethal removal.
The National Park Service says the third is their preferred method. Capture and relocation would take place wherever safe and feasible. Once a point of diminishing returns for capture operations is reached, management would switch to using the lethal removal method.
Why remove them?
Mountain goats are not native to the Olympic Peninsula. They were introduced to the Olympic Mountains prior to the establishment of the national park (1938), and have since colonized the entire range.
NPS refers to the Mountain Goats as an exotic species and says the ungulates desire to eat everything in site. They say the mountain goats are damaging the sensitive vegetation communities of the region.
But officials also point to new concerns that were raised in 2010 when when a visitor was fatally gored by a mountain goat while hiking on a park trail.
Mountain goats have a high affinity for salts. There are no natural sources of salt in the Olympic Mountains, and mountain goats have learned to seek salts from humans.
In areas with high levels of visitor use within the park, mountain goats have become conditioned to the extent that they are a nuisance and may be hazardous to visitors.
How Many Mountain Goats Are There?
Approximately 12 mountain goats were introduced to the Olympic Peninsula near Lake Crescent from 1925 to 1929. By the early 1980s, the mountain goat population in the park had grown to more than 1,000.
During the 1980s and 1990s, the park conducted a series of management plans that significantly reduced the population.
But a 2016 survey revealed that the population has bounced back to an estimated 625 mountain goats, with an 8% average annual rate of increase from 2004 to 2016. At this growth rate, there could be approximately 725 mountain goats on the Olympic Peninsula by 2018
The plan is open for public comment for 60 days, until Sept. 26. Park officials hope to reach a final decision by Spring 2018.
Comments will be accepted electronically through at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/olymgoat and via hard copy through the US Postal Service — address below.