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Federal, state agencies announce plan to move goats to Cascades via helicopter

Mountain goats get a chopper ride as relocation from Olympics begins

A coalition of state and federal agencies have begun moving mountain goats from Olympic National Park to the northern Cascades to re-establish the depleted population there and reduce problems caused in the Olympics by non-native goats.
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A coalition of state and federal agencies have begun moving mountain goats from Olympic National Park to the northern Cascades to re-establish the depleted population there and reduce problems caused in the Olympics by non-native goats.

Beginning on Monday, a coalition of state and federal agencies will start to move mountain goats from Olympic National Park to the northern Cascade Mountains, according to a news release from the National Park Service, state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service.

The move is aimed at re-establishing the depleted mountain goat populations in the Washington Cascades, and reduce problems caused in the Olympics by the non-native goats.

In May, the Park Service released its final Mountain Goat Management Plan that 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 public review process that began in 2014.

Mountain goats were introduced to the Olympics in the 1920s.

“Mountain goat relocation will allow these animals to reoccupy historical range areas in the Cascades and increase population viability,” USFS Wildlife Biologist Jesse Plumage said in the news release.

The effort will take two weeks. Additional goats will be moved during two efforts next year.

A private contractor that specializes in the capture and transport of wild animals will use a helicopter for the capture operation. They will use tranquilizer darts and net guns to capture mountain goats and transport them in specially made slings to a staging area on Hurricane Hill Road beyond the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center in Olympic National Park. The staging area will be closed to public access.

The animals will be examined by veterinarians before WDFW wildlife managers transport them overnight to staging areas in the north Cascades for release the following day.

Goats will be relocated to alpine habitats in five areas in the Cascades: near mountain peaks south of the town of Darrington; on the Darrington District of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest; near Mount Index, on the Skykomish Ranger District; Tower Peak in the Methow area of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest; and near the headwaters of the Cedar River Drainage, which is land owned by Seattle Public Utilities.

“The translocation effort will relieve issues with non-native mountain goats in the Olympics while bolstering depleted herds in the northern Cascades,” Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said in the news release. “Mountain goats cause significant impacts to the park ecosystem as well as public safety concerns.”

Mountain goats have been known to approach hikers because they are attracted to the salt from their sweat, urine, and food. That behavior is less likely in the north Cascades where visitors are more spread out, said Rich Harris, a WDFW wildlife manager who specializes in mountain goats.

The north Cascades also have an abundance of natural salt licks, while the Olympic Peninsula has virtually none, Harris said.

For more information about mountain goats in Washington state, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/living/mountain_goats.html.

Along with the staging area closure on Hurricane Hill Road, several trails in Olympic National Park will be closed for visitor and employee safety during helicopter operations. For more information and updates, visit www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/mountain-goat-capture-and-translocation.htm.

Logan Stanley: 360-754-5433, @LSscribe
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