Oregon DFW Releases 18 Rocky Mtn Goats

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ODFW and U.S. Forest Service staff released 18 Rocky Mountain goats into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness in the Umatilla National Forest during the week of July 20 as part of a continuing effort to establish a population in this area.

The goats were captured in the Elkhorn Mountains, which has served as the source population for Rocky Mountain goat reintroduction efforts to other parts of the state, and radio-collared before their release.

Safari Club International, Bend Chapter contributed $260 to purchase a radio collar. A $5,000 grant provided several years ago by the Oregon Chapter, Foundation for North America Wild Sheep (FNAWS) will fund the cost of aerial monitoring (via fixed-wing plane) to track the movements of the newly-released goats. Another $3,300 Oregon FNAWS grant funded the purchase of 10 kid radio collars, four of which were used during this year's capture and release operation.

Rocky Mountain goats are attracted to salt during the spring and summer so the goats were trapped using a drop net baited with salt. Veterinary staff were present to monitor the goats' health, collect blood samples for disease screening and administer inoculations to the animals.

Rocky Mountain goats were likely 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 2009 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.

The present statewide Rocky Mountain goat population is estimated to be 800, the result of efforts like the one that occurred in July. The Elkhorn Mountains wild goat population is estimated to be over 300.

This year's project was the 17th 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, the department transplants animals to help reestablish populations in historic habitat.