Penny Wagner, Olympic National Park, 360-565-3004
Colton Whitworth, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, 425-783-6050
Deborah Kelly, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, 509-664-9247
Susan Garner, Olympic National Forest, 360-956-2390
Samantha Montgomery, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 360-688-0721
Friday, July 19 marked the final day of a two-week long capture and translocation operation which moved 76 mountain goats from Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest to the northern Cascade Mountains. Since September 2018, 174 mountain goats have been translocated. An additional two-week period is planned for mid-August. Capture and translocation may continue into 2020 depending on this year’s results.
This effort is a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS), the Washington 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 while also removing non-native goats from the Olympic Mountains. Though some mountain goat populations in the North Cascades have recovered since the 1990s, the species is still absent or rare in many areas of its historic range. Mountain goats were introduced to the Olympics in the 1920s.
In addition to the 76 mountain goats released in the North Cascades, there were five adult mortalities related to capture, three animals were euthanized because they were unfit for translocation, and one animal died in transit. Four animals that could not be captured safely were lethally removed.
Leading Edge Aviation, a private company which specializes in the capture of wild animals, conducted aerial capture operations through a contract. The helicopter crew used immobilizing darts and net guns to capture mountain goats and transport them in specially-made slings to the staging areas located at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park and the Hamma Hamma area in Olympic National Forest. The animals were examined and treated by veterinarians before volunteers working with WDFW transported them to pre-selected staging areas in the North Cascades. The mountain goats were transported in refrigerated trucks to keep them cool.
Once at the staging areas, WDFW and participating Tribal biologists worked with HiLine Aviation to airlift the crated goats to release areas. Release areas were chosen based on their high quality mountain goat habitat, proximity to the staging areas, and limited disturbance to recreationists.
Due to weather, the helicopter crew was only able to operate for 10 out of 12 days, and several of those days ended early due to weather. Weather also prevented airlifting goats to preferred release sites in the North Cascades on four days. WDFW used remote sites that were accessible to the refrigerated trucks instead.
“I am extremely grateful to the capture crew, park staff, and all of the partners and volunteers who worked so hard during the coldest and wettest two weeks of July imaginable,” said Dr. Patti Happe, Wildlife Branch Chief at Olympic National Park.
During this round, release sites in the Cascades were the Chikamin Ridge and Box Canyon areas on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Preacher Mountain on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (MBS), near Mt. Index on the Skykomish Ranger District of the MBS, and between Prairie and Whitechuck Mountains on the Darrington Ranger District of the MBS.
“An operation such as this is impossible without the support and participation of a large team,” said Dr. Rich Harris, a WDFW wildlife manager who specializes in mountain goats. “All have worked tirelessly to give every goat the best possible chance at a new beginning in native habitat. In future years, we hope to be able to look back with the satisfaction of knowing we helped restore this wonderful species where there are currently so few.”
Area tribes lending support to the translocation plan in the Cascades include the Lummi, Muckleshoot, Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Swinomish, Tulalip, and Upper Skagit tribes. Volunteers from the Point No Point Treaty Council, Quileute Tribe, Quinault Indian Nation, Makah Tribe, Skokomish Indian Tribe, and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe also assisted at the staging areas in the Olympics.
In August, Mount Ellinor in Olympic National Forest will be an area of focus for capture efforts. All of the Mount Ellinor trails system and Forest Road 2419 to Mount Ellinor, as well as Forest Road 2464 leading to Forest Road 2419, will be closed to the public starting the evening of August 18 until the morning of August 30. For more information, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/olympic/alerts-notices. Additional information regarding August release sites will be provided next month.
In May 2018, 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 which began in 2014.
For more information about mountain goats in Washington State, see WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/oreamnos-americanus.
For more information and updates on the project, visit nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/mountain-goat-capture-and-translocation.htm.