Mountain Goat Study to Begin at Logan Pass

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Date: June 24, 2013
Contact: Denise Germann, 406 888-5838
Contact: Jennifer Lutman, 406 888-7895

WEST GLACIER, MONT. –Glacier National Park, in partnership with the University of Montana, is preparing to conduct a three-year research study on how mountain goats are affected by roads, people and trails in the Logan Pass area. The research is a critical component of the current Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Management planning effort, as human-wildlife interactions within the corridor is an identified issue of concern. 

Interactions between humans and goats are increasing in the Logan Pass area, creating potential unhealthy, unnatural and unsafe conditions.  Acting Glacier National Park Superintendent Kym Hall said, "Our existing knowledge about mountain goats in the park is very limited and not sufficient on which to make management decisions." An incident in Olympic National Park has also prompted park managers to seriously research this issue. In 2010 there was a visitor fatality that was a direct result of an interaction with a mountain goat.

Hall said the mission of the National Park Service includes protecting the wildlife and providing for the enjoyment of them in such a way that will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.  She believes this study, with its combination of methods, strategies, sample size, focused study area and limited duration, is an attempt to balance the park's need to develop long-term and science-based management strategies for the Logan Pass area and the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor while at the same time providing a quality visitor experience that celebrates the park's wildlife. The mountain goat is a recognized iconic and historic symbol of the park. Hall said that park managers have discussed the study and feel that the research plan will allow for the gathering of valuable data, while managing goat and human safety as the top priority.

Specific goals of the project include an understanding of:

- Individual goat use of Logan Pass and adjacent areas and movements on the landscape,

- Goats and humans in close proximity to each other and possible deterrents,

- Goat concentrations and unnatural behavior,

- Goat use of roads, developed areas and proximity to people as safe havens from predators, and

- Productivity estimates of females.

The study will incorporate observational, collaring, messaging and marking techniques. Researchers will spend time observing and recording human-goat interactions. Informational signs about human-goat interactions will be placed in the Logan Pass area. Approximately 20-25 goats will be collared of the estimated 1,500 goats in the park, or approximately 1.6% of the estimated park-wide population.  A few goats that will not be able to be collared may be temporarily marked to enable a researcher to visually distinguish between individual goats.

Research on bighorn sheep will be conducted simultaneously, with observational, messaging and marking techniques. No collars will be placed on bighorn sheep, as individual sheep are easier to identify due to horn variations.

The project is anticipated to begin later this summer with National Park Service employees overseeing and conducting much of the collaring work, in collaboration with other researchers. The principal investigator for the project is Dr. Joel Berger. He is the John J. Craighead Chair and Professor of Wildlife Conservation at the University of Montana, Senior Scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, and a member of the National Park System Advisory Board Science Committee.

The total cost of the three-year project is estimated to be approximately $150,000. National Park Service and Federal Highway funds will be used. 

Hall said, "We approved a similar mountain goat study a few years ago and immediately stopped the project after two goats died while being tranquilized. We are implementing numerous changes and restrictions, and believe we can safely and successfully conduct all aspects of this research to collect needed data."  

The data gathered through the goat research will be valuable to incorporate into the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Management Plan. "We need good science-based information to make the best decisions related to a popular area for wildlife and visitors," said Hall.   

 - NPS -

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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