State and federal agencies along with support from local tribes are gearing up to start a second year of transferring goats across the state, moving the animals to improve the areas in all locations involved.
On July 8 the work begins to translocate mountain goats from Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest to the northern Cascade Mountains, a release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) stated last week.
The effort is a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS), the WDFW and the USDA Forest Service (USFS) to rebuild depleted populations in the Cascades while removing mountain goats from the Olympics. The Olympic goats were introduced to the area in the 1920s.
“A project of this magnitude would be impossible without our partner agencies and the expertise and cooperation of hundreds of people,” Olympic National Park Wildlife Branch Chief Dr. Patti Happe stated in the release. “The interagency collaboration and the support from everyone involved is extraordinary.”
The project will receive support from the Lummi, Muckleshoot, Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, Suquamish, Swinomish, Tulalip, and Upper Skagit tribes, as well as assistance from Point No Point Treaty Council, Quileute Tribe, Quinault Indian Nation, Skokomish Indian Tribe, and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe volunteers at the staging areas in the Olympics.
Last year was the first time a mountain goat relocation happened, resulting in the removal of 115 mountain goats from the population in the park. Relocation efforts have followed a Mountain Goat Management Plan published by the NPS in 2018. While some populations in the North Cascades have recovered since the 1990s, there are still other places that historically contained the animals with a lack of goats.
The partnership has contracted with a private company to perform the aerial capture, using immobilizing darts and net guns from a helicopter to capture mountain goats and transport them in specially-made slings to the staging areas.
Though capture operations will occur throughout the park and national forest there will be an emphasis on specific areas known to have many mountain goats. Officials are specifically focused on the Klahhane Ridge, Appleton Pass, the Seven Lakes Basin, the Lake of the Angels and Mt. Ellinor areas. Staging for captured goats will be on Hurricane Hill Road beyond the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center in Olympic National Park and in the Hamma Hamma area in July, switching to the Mt. Ellinor area in August.
Those staging areas will be closed to public access during the goat corral.
The mountain goats will receive veterinary care before WDFW wildlife managers transport them to staging areas in the north Cascades for release. Sites where the goats will be dropped have been selected based on favorable characteristics for maximum success.
The animals are planned to be released at six sites in the Cascades in July. Three of the sites will be in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (MBS), including the Chikamin area on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Preacher Mountain in the MBS, and Hardscrabble Ridge on an inholding owned by Forterra.
Two other sites are near mountain peaks south of the town of Darrington in the Darrington District of the MBS; the other is near Mt. Index on the Skykomish Ranger District of the MBS, according to the release.
The relocation will put the animals in areas where visitors are more widely distributed than they are in the Olympics, according to WDFW Wildlife Manager Rich Harris, a mountain goat specialist. Goats are attracted to humans due to the salt in their food, sweat and urine.
“The North Cascades has natural salt licks, while the Olympic Peninsula has virtually none,” Harris stated in the release. “We’d expect salt hunger to be lower in goats that have natural sources available to them.”
Trail Impacts and Road Closures
• Hurricane Hill Road, beyond the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center parking lot, will be closed to all access from July 7 through 20 for mobilization. The closure includes the Hurricane Hill Trail, Little River Trail, and Wolf Creek Trail.
• The Klahhane Ridge area will close temporarily on July 8 and 9 for visitor and employee safety during capture operations.
• The area of Seven Lakes Basin/High Divide/ Heart Lake/ Hoh Lake/ to Cat Basin will be closed to hiking and overnight camping July 7 through 11.
• The area of Lake of the Angels, accessed from Putvin Trail 813 off Forest Road 25 in Olympic National Forest, will be closed at mile 3 at the park boundary from July 9 through July 18.
• At Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, land adjacent to the roadway at the junctions of Forest Service Roads 49 and 4920 will be closed from July 9 through July 21.
• In August the Mt. Ellinor trails system and Forest Road 2419 to Mt. Ellinor, as well as Forest Road 2464 leading to Forest Road 2419, will be closed to the public starting the evening of August 18 until the morning of August 30.
For more information about mountain goats in Washington State, see WDFW’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/oreamnos-americanus.
For more information and updates on the project, visitnps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/mountain-goat-capture-and-translocation.htm.