Mountain goat removal project could start this summer

About 90 percent of the animals are expected to be transported to the Cascades.

By Craig Hill / The News Tribune

Their days are numbered on the Olympic Peninsula.

Officials plan to move as many mountain goats as possible to the Cascades and then kill the rest in an effort to reduce the population to zero, according to a management plan announced by the National Park Service, Forest Service and state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

An estimated 625 mountain goats live on the peninsula and the population is growing by eight percent per year, according to the National Park Service. The park says the goats pose a public safety risk (a goat killed a Port Angeles man in 2010) and cause environmental damage.

Goats are not native to the peninsula, the park says, and officials have looked to remove the goats for decades.

Goats could be moved as soon this summer. About 90 percent of the animals are expected to be transported. The rest would be killed. Helicopters could be used in both cases.

“Federal and state agencies are poised to begin the effort that will help grow a depleted population of mountain goats in the Cascades and eliminate their impact on the Olympic Peninsula,” superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said in a statement released by the park.

According to information distributed by the park, “Our top priority is capture and relocation; however, once capture operations become impractical or hazardous due to steep terrain the remaining goats would be removed by lethal means.”

Biologists and wildlife, forest and park managers developed the plan. Mountain goats are native to the Cascades and the terrain is more suited to them, they say.

“It’s sort of two restoration projects in one: removing (mountain goats) from the Olympics and setting it right there, and in the North Cascades, restoring herds there,” Rob Smith, Northwest regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, told the Seattle Times. “In this case, the Park Service has done its homework.”

The goats will be released at nine locations on Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, two locations on Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and one location on land owned by Seattle Public Utilities.

The NPS is required to wait 30 days before signing a record of decision.

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