PARKS – Mountain goats are eating themselves out of house and home in Olympic National Park, where officials are weighing several options to remove the non-native species to uphold their mission to preserve native habitat.
Capturing and relocating the animals or even killing some of them will allow park managers to reduce environmental impacts and protect public safety, according to a draft environmental review released today.
Mountain goats are not native to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and have long posed an environmental problem for the park. But the fatal goring of a hiker in 2010 raised new concerns about the goats’ place in the park.
At that time, the park's goat population was estimated at around 300. A survey released in 2012 found a 40 percent jump since 2004 in the number of mountain goats in Washington’s Olympic Mountains. More than 600 goats currently are in the Peninsula's alpine meadows and rocky peaks, the draft review says.
Mountain goats were introduced to the Olympics in the 1920s and numbered nearly 1,200 in 1983. Park officials removed several hundred from the park in the late 1980s over concerns of their potential impact to the environment.
The park’s preferred alternative calls for capturing and relocating goats to national forests in the North Cascade Mountains and then switching to lethal removal. Three other options include exclusively killing the goats, relocating them, or taking no action.
They're cool animals that I adore and observe with fond interest in their native habitats. But the environment in the Olympic National Park and peninsula wasn't designed by nature to handle them, officials say. Decades of research may finally lead to their removal if the public will let nature be the guide instead of emotions.