ODFW and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs released Rocky Mountain goats at the base of Mt Jefferson last week.
A total of 24 Rocky Mountain goats (14 nannies, one adult billy, six yearling nannies, two female kids and one male kid) were captured in the Elkhorn Mountains in Baker County and released on tribal lands at the base of Mt Jefferson.
These join a population of at least 40 others—the original Rocky mountain goats or their offspring from the first reintroduction in the Central Oregon Cascades back in 2010.
Historical literature states that Rocky Mountain goats occurred on Mt Jefferson and the region appears to be a good fit for the species today. ODFW last surveyed the area in mid-July, and counted 29 goats during the aerial survey, including two sets of twins.
“We were very satisfied with what we saw, especially the number of kids,” said Steve George, ODFW district wildlife biologist. “The Rocky Mountain goats are reproducing well and their overall survival rate is good, too.”
“The nucleus of the herd is still up around Mt Jefferson, on and off reservation land. But goats have this ability to cross some very rough terrain and some are starting to disperse to areas we anticipated like Three-fingered Jack and Olallie Butte,” said Doug Calvin, wildlife manager with tribes.
“The initial release went really well and we now have a broad distribution of goats. This supplemental release will help bolster them on and off the reservation,” Calvin added.
The tribes are managing the Mt Jefferson Rocky Mountain goat population on their lands to provide cultural and ceremonial opportunities for tribal members. Once an adequate population has been sustained (50 or more goats for five years), tribal members could hunt the goats on their lands.
Thanks to contributions from tribes and several sportsman-wildlife conservation organizations, 14 of the goats had GPS or radio collars to help wildlife managers track them. The sportsman-wildlife conservation organizations Oregon Wildlife, Oregon Hunters Association chapters (Bend, Ochoco, Redmond, Yamhill County, Columbia Basin, Lincoln County) and Safari Club International together contributed $13,650 to purchase the collars.
The Rocky Mountain goats were trapped in the Elkhorn Mountains of Baker County, which has served as the source population for capture operations for many years. Goats are attracted to salt during the spring and summer so the goats were trapped using a drop net baited with salt. ODFW veterinary staff were present to monitor the goats’ health, collect blood samples for disease screening and administer inoculations to the animals.
In future years, Rocky Mountain goats may be released at other sites in the Central Oregon Cascades including Three-fingered Jack and the Three Sisters. As the goats establish themselves in the Cascades on non-tribal lands, hunting and viewing opportunities will become available for Oregon residents and visitors.
Rocky Mountain goats were extirpated from Oregon prior to or during European settlement in the late 19th century. The rarest game animal hunted in the state today, only 11 tags are available for the 2012 season. All controlled Rocky Mountain goats tags are “once in a lifetime” so once a hunter draws the tag, he or she may never draw it again.
ODFW also raffles off a Rocky Mountain goat tag each year to raise money for research and reintroduction efforts like this one. Raffle sales for this fall’s tag fetched $22,269.
Oregon’s current Rocky Mountain goat population is the result of reintroduction efforts like the one that happened last week. This year’s project was the 20th since efforts to reintroduce Rocky Mountain goats to Oregon began in 1950. That year, 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).
Under ODFW’s Rocky Mountain Goat and Bighorn Sheep Management Plan, ODFW transplants animals to help reestablish populations in historic habitat. A site-specific plan guides the reintroduction and monitoring of Rocky Mountain goats in the Central Oregon Cascades.