Mountain Goats

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Mountain Goats

Postby Ed » Sun Jul 30, 2017 9:41 am

There was an article today in the San Diego Union Tribune on mountain goats and Olympic National Park. Blew me away, as it was contrary to everything I believed.

I once saw a herd of mountain goats while hiking in Olympic National Park. One of my favorite wilderness memories, they seemed so natural, so beautiful and majestic, so wild. And so safe.

Turns out they are not native to the Olympic Peninsula, they were imported in the 1920's. They have been a problem for many years, bad for the environment and dangerous for hikers. A mountain goat killed a hiker in 2010. Not by butting him off a cliff, by goring him in the leg. Severed arteries, he bled to death. Seems the mountain goats don't keep their distance, they are attracted by the salt and other minerals that cling to us, our clothing, and our gear.

There have been removal programs, but they aren't very cooperative, and keep reproducing. Now the park service is considering complete elimination from the park, by removal to the North Cascades followed by shooting the ones that escape removal.

You learn something new every day. I wonder if this was well known to our Pacific Northwest friends.
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Re: Mountain Goats

Postby Wildhorse » Sun Jul 30, 2017 10:31 am

Thanks, Ed, for this interesting post. I have not been able to find that article, but did find others on this topic.

http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/mountain_goats.html

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/ ... or-removal

According to the npr article, the park service appears to believe the goats are an invasive species on the Olympic Peninsula, introduced by humans, as most invasives are, for the pleasure of hunters.

It appears that goats are harming the Olympic Peninsula in the same way, but to a smaller degree, as humans are harming the whole earth and its atmosphere.

I feel sorry for the goats. They are innocent, even if invasive, and even if they take out a few of our kind with their horns.

Humans are the most invasive species. Are we innocent? If the animals and plants had a way to stop us, we would not be invasive. It was once that way. The earth would be different if we had not become invasive.
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Re: Mountain Goats

Postby zippetydude » Sun Jul 30, 2017 11:33 am

I feel bad for the goats too, but the problem shouldn't be years in the solving and extremely expensive. Rough as it sounds, they could just open up the hunting with unlimited tags and let private parties remove the goats quickly and efficiently (and for free). I'm not a hunter, but hunting is as old as humanity itself, and in this case seems like an effective, guilt free chance to let hunters do what they do. By the same token, if they also allowed any volunteer groups who wanted to relocate goats at their own expense, time and effort, then that seems just as legitimate as hunting, and clearly more merciful. No doubt some poor well meaning individuals would end up getting hurt, but as long as they sign waivers before beginning such an operation, I'm no fan of a nanny state and think they should be allowed to take their own chances.

By the way,there is a fascinating radio story about getting rid of goats in the Galapagos Islands and how they had to use "Judas" goats to find the other goats. Really quite a fascinating story if you have the chance to listen to it.

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Re: Mountain Goats

Postby Sally » Sun Jul 30, 2017 2:09 pm

This topic reminds me of one of my trips to the Olympic Mountains in Washington.

One evening my backpacking group had made camp. It had been raining for several days (typical for the Olympics) and we had stretched out a line and we were trying to dry our clothes.

So, there we were, eating dinner when up walks a mountain goat. Then his mate came. Then his kids. We were thinking, "Aw, how cute, a family." Then the rest of the herd showed up. They proceeded to come right up to us. They were very interested in our dinner.

Well, just in the nick of time, the goats discovered our clothesline and started chowing down on our socks! Luckily we were able to shoo those goats away.

A couple of years later I read the story of the man who was gored to death by a mountain goat in the Olympics. I guess we got lucky to only have lost a few pair of socks!
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Re: Mountain Goats

Postby Ed » Sun Jul 30, 2017 5:29 pm

Cute story, Sally. Invasive Species 1 (mountain goats) meets Invasive Species 2 (yummy socks). And very much in agreement with what I read in the SDUT article.
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Re: Mountain Goats

Postby Wildhorse » Mon Jul 31, 2017 1:59 pm

Here is a link to the draft environmental statement.

https://parkplanning.nps.gov/showFile.c ... fid=291034

It is a long multi-file document. It is preceded by an executive summary in the file linked above.

The nps is considering four alternatives. One is to continue the current policy of selectively removing goats that harm people. Another is to relocate all of them. Another is to shoot all of them. The fourth is to remove some and shoot the rest. All have drawbacks, and cause harm to the land, even while offering potential benefits. None is ideal. Many conficting values are at stake. Its a mess. At least, that is the picture presented in the draft eis.

I cannot assess whether nps has adequately assessed the impacts and issues.

It is very sad, whatever is done.

Darwin warned about the adverse impact of human selection. It is real, and tragic to the earth and to ourselves. The relocation of the wild goats to the peninsula in the 1920s was human selection. The nps remedies are an additional human selection. They do not restore the damage done, and they cause other harm. It is an unending spiral.
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Re: Mountain Goats

Postby zippetydude » Mon Jul 31, 2017 4:45 pm

I don't know, the option of relocating all of them doesn't sound like it will cause harm, except to the NPS budget! Or, another way to look at this - mountain goats generally live only 12-15 years in the wild. So, even if the NPS ends up choosing depredation, most of the adult mountain goats only have a very few years left anyway, and the land would have already have significant healing underway by the time the goats could have eventually been caught.

Just a thought.

I find myself torn on this one because the goats don't belong there, and yet they would be paying with their lives for a mistake that they did not make. Sort of like when your kid's pet mouse, which cost $1.00 and will live at most 2 years, gets sick at 6 months and the vet bill would be $50.00...and yet your child is looking up at you with big sad eyes saying, "Daddy, can you help my mouse get better?" What do you do?

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Re: Mountain Goats

Postby Wildhorse » Mon Jul 31, 2017 5:15 pm

Z, in the eis the nps explains the adverse impacts of trapping and shooting.

It would be interesting to know the perspectives of Sierra Club and other wildlife/ecology advocates.
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Re: Mountain Goats

Postby Wildhorse » Mon Jul 31, 2017 7:00 pm

Here is another long but interesting analysis of the issues related to the goats on the Olympic Peninsula. It is 20 years old, but it seems like the issues are the same now.

http://scholarworks.umt.edu/cgi/viewcon ... ontext=etd

So many conflicting values are at stake. And facts, such as whether the goats are native or not, are also under dispute. It appears that the nps eis is as much political as scientific. That is unfortunately common, even while the law requires science in an eis. I fear the nps is just looking for an end to their own headache over the goats.

I don't know what is best ecologically. And that is my concern. I am torn between leaving them alone and relocating them. I feel uncertain about the facts. This is a mess.
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Re: Mountain Goats

Postby zippetydude » Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:17 pm

I read the plan and was surprised to find that their preferred method (starting with trapping and switching to lethal removal) would accomplish around 90% of the task within the first year or two. If you can solve 90% of a problem that fast, the negative impacts of the problem will be tremendously diminished almost immediately. The environmental impact of trapping seemed minimal - staging area impact, helicopter noise, etc. Nothing as compared to what the goats are presently doing. If somewhere around half the goats can be translocated rather than shot and still maintain efficacy of removal, that sounds like a functional plan. I like the fact that they are open to donating the carcasses to the Skokomish tribe to use in traditional ways, sort of appeals to me because those old traditions were much closer to living along with the rest of nature instead of killing things for fun or convenience.

A positive note - I read an account of one of the early settlers in North America cutting down a Chestnut tree so that he could more easily get to the chestnuts. While we would be shocked to hear of someone doing that now, the world back then was viewed as more-or-less infinite, and chopping down a tree was not thought of as significant, sort of like if you dropped one grain of sand out of a 100lb bag. You would never even think of stopping to pick it up. Our perspective has changed, and as it continues to evolve, I hope that the action will suit the word...

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