Draft Mountain Goat Management Plan Proposes to Remove Non-native Goats by Live-capture and Translocation, Followed by Shooting.
[Updated Aug. 2017]
The National Park Service, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), has released its Mountain Goat Management Plan draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). The plan sets the course for eliminating exotic goats from the Olympics and will help restore struggling native goat populations in the North Cascades.
The plan’s “preferred alternative” (D) combines a period of live capture and relocation with lethal removal of non-native goats by shooting. Both will be accomplished over a three- to five-year period followed by an extended period of maintenance to deal with recurring goats. OPA fully supports this compromise approach with the ultimate goal of eliminating all goats from the Olympics.
OPA considers non-native mountain goats to be one of the most acute management problems facing the park. A growing goat population of eight percent per year, coupled with increasing impacts on Olympic’s alpine plant communities and the implicit danger goats pose to hikers, demands decisive action. This plan is a critical step.
Mountain goats are not native to the Olympics; they were introduced by hunting interests in the 1920s before the park was created. With the absence of natural predators and in the mild coastal climate of the Olympics, their numbers soared. By the 1980s the population reached more than 1,100 animals. Destructive impacts by goats on sensitive alpine and subalpine environments from feeding, trampling and wallowing became both visible and profound. A live-capture and translocation program, begun in the 1980s, reduced the population significantly. A 1990s planning effort, which proposed to remove remaining goats by aerial shooting, was placed on hold.
Findings from the park’s earlier draft EIS and subsequent studies and reviews have confirmed that:
- Goats are not native to the Olympics.
- Even small numbers of goats do measurable damage to alpine plants and soils.
- Goat impacts on Olympic marmots and other endemic and sensitive alpine animals remain unknown.
- Chemical contraception is not a viable means of eliminating goats.
- Habituated non-native goats can pose a danger to park visitors.
- Public hunting of park goats is not a feasible solution as all hunting is illegal in ONP.
The Draft Plan
The draft plan considers a range of alternatives including: no-action, live-capture and translocation, and lethal removal. The preferred alternative combines live-capture and translocation with lethal removal. This option addresses the need to protect park resources and visitor safety while helping to restore reduced mountain goat populations in their native habitats in Washington’s North Cascades. OPA fully endorses this approach as long as the goal is complete removal of goats from all Olympic National Park and Forest lands. We remain committed to a workable solution that will result in removal of all non-native goats from the Olympic Mountains.
What You Can Do
Help preserve the Olympics’ stunning alpine habitats for the native plants and animals that have made it their home for millennia. Please comment on Olympic National Park’s Mountain Goat Management Plan . Support the preferred alternative (Alternative D), and urge planners to develop a final plan that will eliminate all non-native goats form the Olympics.
You can also write the park superintendent at:
Olympic National Park, 600 E Park Ave., Port Angeles, WA 98362-6757
To review the Olympic National Park and WDFW PowerPoint program presented at the August public information meetings on the plan, click here.
To view OPA’s scoping letter to Olympic National Park on the Mountain Goat Management Plan/EIS, click here.
To view a brief history of mountain goat management at Olympic, click here.
To review OPA’s 1995 detailed analysis of non-native mountain goats in the Olympics, click here.
Watch for future alerts and postings from OPA.