|Rocky Mountain goats are relocated to the Malheur National Forest by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife with the assistance of the U.S. Forest Service and hunter volunteers. Efforts like this have helped reestablish these rare animals in Oregon. Photo by Pilar Rivera.
JOHN DAY, ORE. – Rare Rocky Mountain goats are reestablishing their native territory across Northeast Oregon with the help of wildlife biologists.
Over the past three days, 13 Rocky mountain goats were transported from the Elkhorn Mountains in Wallowa-Whitman National Forest to the Strawberry Mountains in Malheur National Forest as part of ODFW’s ongoing relocation efforts. These mountain goats will supplement a small population that likely migrated from the Elkhorns in the late 1990s and have been successfully reproducing since 2005.
ODFW wildlife biologists and veterinary staff were on the ground to capture, transport and release the animals. Staff from the U.S. Forest Service and volunteers from the Oregon Hunters Association assisted with the project.
Rocky Mountain goats are attracted to salt during the spring and summer so the goats were trapped using a drop net baited with salt. To protect and monitor the animals’ health, biologists and veterinary staff obtained blood samples from and administered inoculations to the animals. After biologists placed radio-collars on the goats to track movements and survival rates, the goats were placed in individual crates, transported to the Strawberry Mountains in vehicles, and released.
Rocky Mountain goats were likely extirpated from Oregon prior to or during European settlement in the late 19th century. The rarest game animal actually hunted in the state today, the present population is estimated to be 600-700, the result of efforts like the one that occurred this week.
“Because Rocky Mountain goats live in such difficult terrain—steep, rocky and remote—much of their habitat remains intact,” said Ryan Torland, ODFW district wildlife biologist in John Day. “The ultimate goal of these relocations is to reestablish healthy goat populations in all available, suitable habitats within Oregon.”
This year’s project was the 15th since efforts began in 1950, when five goats were transported from Chopaka Mountain in northern Washington to the Wallowa Mountains by the Oregon State Game Commission (now the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife).
People who want to catch a glimpse of the rare Rocky Mountain goat can try hiking the higher elevations of the Elkhorns along the Elkhorn Crest hiking trail. In the Malheur National Forest, try the trails in the lakes basin area of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness.
Under ODFW’s Rocky Mountain goat and bighorn sheep management plan, the department transplants animals to help reestablish populations in historic habitat. For more information, visit http://www.dfw.state.or.us/ODFWhtml/InfoCntrWild/PDFs/sgplan_1203.pdf