Mountain Goat Capture and Translocation

 
Two mountain goats in slings under a helicopter being set down into the back of a truck.
Captured mountain goats from Olympic National Park being delivered to a staging area where they are cared for by veterinarians and then transported in refrigeraterd trucks to the northern Cascade Mountains for release.

NPS Photo - J. Burger

 

Project Background

The National Park Service released its Record of Decision (ROD) for the Mountain Goat Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in late June 2018 which outlines the effort to remove the 725 mountain goats estimated on the Olympic Peninsula at that time. Both the plan and the associated environmental impact statement were finalized after an extensive public review process which began in 2014. The United States Forest Service (USFS) signed its ROD in December 2018, which allowed the mountain goat capture and translocation activities to include USFS wilderness.

While mountain goats are not native to the Olympic Peninsula, they are native to the Cascade Mountains but exist in low numbers in many areas. Both the USFS and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) have long been interested in restoring mountain goats to these depleted areas.

The overall plan is to reach a zero population level of mountain goats in the park and adjacent Olympic National Forest lands through capture and translocation and then lethal removal. The top priority was capture and translocation of goats to the Cascade Range where the populations are both native and depleted. Once capture operations become impractical or hazardous due to steep terrain the remaining goats would be removed by lethal means.

The EIS, ROD, and other reference documents can be found on the NPS Planning Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/OLYMgoat.

New: Watch a video from the capture crew to see how the goats were airlifted from the field on the park YouTube channel. Video courtesy Scott Stingley/Leading Edge Aviation.

2020 Summary

One, 2-week capture and translocation operation occurred in 2020. A total of 50 mountain goats were captured and translocated to the northern Cascade Mountains in this fourth and final round, bringing the overall translocation total to 325 mountain goats released into the Cascade Mountains.

Under the approved Mountain Goat Management Plan/EIS, the first priority was to capture and translocate mountain goats to the Cascade Range where the populations are both native and depleted. The plan calls for ceasing captures once capture operations were no longer safe or efficient, due to the remaining goats residing in terrain that is unsafe for capture operations. As predicted in the plan, the mountain goats were harder to catch safely as the operations progressed. By the fourth and final round of capture and translocation in August 2020, capture mortality increased from an average 5.2% after the first round to 9.1% and flight hours per live capture increased from 0.59 hours after the first round to 1.31 hours per goat. The remaining goats cannot be safely or efficiently captured. The project met the objectives of the capture and translocation phase of the Mountain Goat Management Plan/EIS. The total number of flight hours for capture (270 hours) was less than the estimated maximum hours, capture success was better than predicted, and WDFW released the estimated number of mountain goats into the Cascade Mountains thus achieving project goals there.

Olympic National Park recruited skilled volunteers to assist with the ground-based lethal removal of the remaining non-native mountain goats from the park in the fall of 2020. The ground-based lethal removal program using qualified volunteers ended in October with a total of 31 mountain goats culled from the population in the park. Ninety-nine highly skilled volunteers, organized in 20 groups of three to six volunteers per group, volunteered over 9000 hours while participating in the program. Ten mountain goats were removed in the first round, 18 were removed in the second round, and 3 were removed in the final round. A total of 412 mountain goats have now been removed from the Olympic Peninsula. Read the full news release.

Overall Mountain Goat Management Project Results
September 2018 - November 2020

Total Removed

Translocated to Cascades

Transferred to Zoo

Capture Mortalities

Transport Mortalities

Euthanized

Lethally Removed

412

325

16

22

4

6

39


Lethal removal will now switch to aerial operations in 2021. Two, 2-week aerial operations are planned for late July and early September 2021.

2019 Summary

Two, 2-week capture operations occured in 2019.

  • July 2019: 76 mountain goats were translocated.
  • August 2019: 101 mountain goats were translocated.

Since September 2018, a total of 275 mountain goats have been translocated from Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest to the northern Cascade Mountains. An additional two-week capture and translocation period is planned for summer 2020.


2018 Operation Summary

The 2-week capture activities ended September 23 and the final translocation by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife took place on September 24. A total of 115 mountain goats were removed from the park. The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) only translocated mountain goats from the park to the non-wilderness release sites within the North Cascades national forests during this first round.

 
Map of mountain goat removal locations in Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest
Mountain goat removal locations and totals for 2018-2020

NPS/R. Hoffman

Joint NPS-USFS-WDFW News Releases

 
 

Last updated: January 14, 2021

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