Mountain Goat Study Continues

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Date: June 2, 2014
Contact: Denise Germann, 406 888 5838

Glacier National Park, in partnership with the University of Montana and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, will continue mountain goat research activities this summer in the Logan Pass area. The three-year research study began late summer of 2013 to identify how mountain goats are affected by roads, people, and trails near Logan Pass. The study is a critical component of the current Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Management planning effort which identified human-wildlife interactions within the corridor as an issue of concern.

Six mountain goats received radio collars last summer, including five females and one male. GPS and VHF radio collars are utilized to collect location data. VHF collars only collect a data point when they are located by an observer on the ground or in an aircraft, whereas GPS collars collect a data point every few hours and then transmit that information via satellite to a researcher’s computer. Radio collar data revealed mountain goats used Mt. Cannon and the Hidden Creek drainage area as winter habitat.

Preliminary observational data also reveals differences between habituated and wild goats. Habituated goats display different herding behavior and use habitat differently than wild goats. Habituated goats often use meadow, tree, and road habitat whereas wild goats generally stay near cliffs and ledges, with some use of meadow habitat. This data is preliminary so results may change as more information is gathered.

Mountain goat captures will continue this summer as soon as access to the Logan Pass area is safe. It is anticipated that 20–25 goats in total will be collared for this study. Of the more than 1,500 goats estimated in the park, this represents less than 2% of the park-wide population. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks secured a grant and acquired three additional GPS radio collars to be used for this study.

In addition to radio collar placement, researchers will continue observational data collection. Mountain goats may be temporarily marked with paint in specific situations. A University of Montana graduate student will lead most of the observational research study activities, with oversight by park managers. 

The key objectives of the project are to determine:
• Whether the same or different goats use Logan Pass and the Highline Trail area yearly.
• Timing of movements into and beyond the Logan Pass/Highline Trail area.
• Relationships between goats and humans, particularly patterns of habituation and goat-directed aggression, if at all, to humans.

Additional components of the study will assess the extent to which goat reliance on humans result in ‘unnatural’ behavior including: association with human activities, facilities and infrastructure; use of roads, popular adjacent trails, and people as safe havens from predators; and effectiveness of possible deterrents to habituated goats.

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

Visitors are reminded to keep a safe distance from wildlife. Park regulations require visitors to stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards from any other animal.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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