The National Park Service has drafted a plan to remove mountain goats by lethal means that have wandered from Utah.
Dinosaur National Monument is a U.S. National Monument on the border between Utah and Colorado near the southern flank of the Uinta Mountains. Since the Rocky Mountain goat is considered an “exotic” species in these states, the NPS has issued a management plan that calls for the removal of any animal seen outside of the manmade herd that was established in the Uinta Mountains back in the 1990’s.
In June 2014, the first mountain goat sighting in DNM was documented by two visitors when they took pictures of an animal that was positively identified as a Rocky Mountain goat. Avid photographer Annette Zuber said, “It was on the side of the road and went over the ridge. He had topped the ridge, and I photographed it as it was coming down the other side”
Translocation of mountain goats happened back in the mid-1990s thanks in part to big game hunting enthusiasts. The Leidy Peak herd in Utah was established back then some 50 miles west of the DNM.
Emily Spencer, DNM’s Natural Resource Specialist, said, “In Dinosaur, we have many endemic plants of state and federal concern. We know from other parks that goats can damage those plants. The potential for introducing invasive weeds from other places is of concern, too.”
The Dinosaur National Monument Facebook page posted the picture and was as surprised as anyone about the sighting.
Although there is minimal risk, mountain goats can bring with them disease, such as pneumonia and paratuberculosis, which could be introduced to native big game, such as bighorn sheep, deer, pronghorn and elk. Mountain goats can also out-compete bighorn sheep, which are native to Utah and are already being displaced from their ranges by domestic sheep. There are approximately 165 bighorn in the DNM.
Big-game coordinator Dax Mangus, of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ northeast region and his department confirm the idea saying, “We agree with the monument that it is not goat habitat. I seriously doubt a population could establish itself there. We wouldn’t feel comfortable moving that goat back to the Uintas.”
The most likely removal method now is utilizing qualified sharpshooters from the NPS.
While these beautiful animals have their place in the western mountains, typically at an altitude of 9,000 feet and above, their presence has caused concern on other parks as well. Grand Teton and Yellowstone for example have officials worried as well.
For now, the DNM is accepting public comment on the plan until March 9, 2016.