Preparations are underway for the second year of mountain goat relocations.
State and federal agencies will start next week coordinating the capture of mountain goats from Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge area and move them by truck, ferry and helicopter to new homes in the North Cascades, including in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
In 2018, 98 mountain goats were relocated using this procedure, including 70 on the outskirts of Skagit County near Tower Mountain, Stillaguamish Peak and Vesper Peak.
State Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Sam Montgomery said based on data from GPS collars put on some goats released last year, the animals moved around quite a bit immediately after their release, then settled down for the winter before moving into higher-elevation alpine areas in June.
Of the adult mountain goats released, about 70% are still alive, according to Fish & Wildlife.
Whether they settle in with mountain goats already in the North Cascades has yet to be seen.
“It’s still too early to tell if mountain goats will find each other and begin breeding,” Montgomery said.
The hope is that they will and that the overall population of mountain goats in the North Cascades region will grow and fill in unused habitat. That’s one of two major goals of the multiyear relocation project.
“Mountain goat relocation will allow these animals to reoccupy historical range areas in the Cascades and increase population viability,” U.S. Forest Service Wildlife biologist Jesse Plumage said in a news release.
The other major goal is to remove the goats from the Olympic Mountains, where the species is not native and the goats damage sensitive habitat or become aggressive with park and forest land visitors.
Mountain goats sometimes follow and 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 widely distributed than those at Olympic National Park, as well as because the North Cascades have natural sources of salt that the Olympic Mountains do not.
The goals were outlined in a Mountain Goat Management Plan the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, state Department of Fish & Wildlife and others, including supporting tribes, agreed to in mid-2018.
The plan is to eliminate the estimated 725-goat population from the Olympic Mountains. In 2019, 115 mountain goats were removed.
Starting July 8, the agencies will spend two weeks moving more goats. Two are near Darrington.
Another two-week relocation is planned for Aug. 19-30.