Twenty-three more mountain goats were culled in the Olympic Mountains this summer as the fifth and final year of active removals wrapped up last month.
It brings the total number of billies, nannies and kids removed from the rugged core of the Olympic Peninsula since the operation began in 2018 to 548, with just under 60 percent of those translocated to Washington’s Cascades to bolster herds there.
The peninsula’s goat population had originally been estimated at 725, but few appear to remain, or at least were spotted by crews.
“During searches for mountain goats in the national park and Olympic National Forest in July and August, very few mountain goats or signs of mountain goats were seen,” reported acting Olympic National Park spokeswoman Meagan Huff this afternoon.
Twenty were killed in July, three in August, in both the park and national forest, she says. Overall, a total of 175 were shot and killed by air and ground crews in the Olympic Mountains during three summers of lethal removals.
Huff says park managers will now shift into a “15-year maintenance phase” to ensure that however many are left don’t rebuild their numbers.
“Ongoing activities will include monitoring and infrequent lethal removal of remaining mountain goats,” she says.
While a native species elsewhere in Washington, the Olympics’ goats originally came from the Canadian Rockies and Alaska and were introduced to the peninsula in the 1920s for hunting before the interior was subsequently declared a national park in 1938. (One Mt. Baker goat refused to be part of it.)
Olympic National Park had long worried about the “exotic” animals’ impact on alpine vegetation as they search for salt and mineral licks. They are attracted to places along trails where hikers pee for the salts that accumulate, as well as campsites where they dump dishwater. And in 2010, a man was gored and killed by a billy on Klahhane Ridge above Port Angeles, adding impetus to doing something about the population.
Hunting isn’t allowed in national parks, but under the federally approved removal plan, 99 “highly skilled volunteers” who were vetted by WDFW and the National Park Service from a pool of more than 1,200 applicants culled 31 goats from the ground in summer 2020, mostly in the park’s Mt. Anderson area.
It was a first at a national park in the Northwest and followed two years of live captures that saw 325 Olympic goats released into the North and Central Cascades. Another 16 kids were taken to zoos, six were euthanized after capture and 26 died during capture and transport, Huff says.
The idea was always to switch to lethal removals after all the relatively easy goats had been caught and the remaining animals had retreated to areas too difficult or hazardous to work in. Last year saw operations switch to the air and 113 animals were lethally removed.
WDFW had also been running a “conflict reduction” hunt outside the park as part of the eradication effort, but suspended it for 2022 because, following this summer’s air operations, “few, if any, mountain goats are anticipated to remain in the hunt area and hunting opportunity will be poor quality.”
However, it could be reinstated if animals turn up in accessible areas.
Huff reports that a final report on the mountain goat removal process will be issued this fall.
Editor’s note, 11 a.m., Thursday, September 8, 2022: Since this post was originally published yesterday, Olympic National Park acting spokeswoman Meagan Huff emailed two clarifications about her previous statements. The 23 mountain goats removed this summer were actually culled in both the park and surrounding Olympic National Forest in separate operations, and what she initially called a “15-year plan” to ensure remaining goats don’t rebuild their population would be better described as a “15-year maintenance phase” along the same lines.