A proposed federal management plan aims to eliminate the growing population of mountain goats in and near Olympic National Park by relocating as many as possible to areas in the North Cascades.
If approved, captures would start this summer. Public meetings about the plan take place all week in towns near the areas that would receive the animals, starting Tuesday evening in Sedro Wooley.
There are an estimated 700 mountain goats in and near Olympic National Park. But they’re not native to the Olympic Peninsula, says Rich Harris with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The department is partnering with the federal government on executing the plan.
“They were placed there by a hunting group in the 1920s, before that was even a national park. And they’ve grown to quite a large number. They damage native vegetation and they’re not a native species, so the park has long wanted to get rid of them. And it’s always been a contentious issue,” Harris said.
That contention came to a head in 2010 when one park visitor bled to death after being gored by a goat on a hiking trail.
But Harris says there’s a win-win solution because the goats are native to the North Cascades. And in many areas there, they were over-hunted in the past, so their numbers are much lower than they should be.
Scientists have identified 12 large areas of high elevation habitat where they think the goats will thrive, mostly in the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest.
If approved, specialists would start the relocations using net and dart guns, helicopters, slings and trucks for two periods of two weeks this July and September and repeat that process next summer.
Because of the steep terrain mountain goats prefer, they estimate only about half them can be moved. The others would be killed.
In an update to the original management plan, the lethal removals would include help from specially trained and pre-screened civilian volunteers with hunting skills.
A detailed FAQ about the plan is available with the draft Environmental Impact Statement on the National Park Service web site.