Rocky Mountain Goats Transplanted

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Rocky Mountain goats captured in the Elkhorn Mountains near Baker City were successfully transplanted at a location near Eagle Creek in the Wallowa Mountains July 12-16.

The effort was conducted by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists from the Baker and Wallowa districts with help from U.S. Forest Service personnel, two veterinarians and several volunteers from the Baker Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association. The transplant is part of ODFW’s continuing effort to re-establish herds in northeast Oregon.

The goats were trapped using a drop net baited with salt. The net had been set up for about a week in order for the goats to get used to it. A total of 12 goats were captured in three net drops. Of the 12 goats captured, five were males and seven were females.

“Trapping began Monday with the hope and design to capture 15 to 20 goats in one or two days,” said George Keister, ODFW’s Baker District biologist. “There were 53 goats seen in the basin on Monday and things looked really promising when we caught eight goats by mid-morning.”

However, things slowed down when the goats left the area Tuesday. The next evening a nanny and kid finally approached the net, but didn’t go under it. By nightfall Wednesday, 21 goats were sighted at the top of the ridge and things again looked promising for a Thursday morning capture. However, early Thursday morning the arrival of a cougar caused the goats to scatter and leave the basin. The nanny and kid finally came under the net to the salt and were caught Thursday evening. Another nanny and yearling came to the net and were captured Friday morning.

ODFW staff temporarily placed hobbles on the animals and covered their horns to prevent injury, and blindfolded them to reduce stress. Biologists then took blood samples, inserted ear tags, and administered inoculations of Ivermectin (a wormer), Bose (a selenium supplement), and penicillin for any cuts and scrapes. Biologists then placed radio-collars on the adults.

The hobbles and horn covers were removed and the goats were placed in individual crates. They were then immediately transported to Eagle Creek and released. ODFW personnel will monitor their movements and survival.

Rocky Mountain goats have been released in Oregon on 13 separate occasions. Six goats (three adult males, two adult females and a female kid) were first reintroduced into Oregon in 1950. They 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).

Attempts to re-establish goats near Tanner Butte in the Columbia Gorge took place between 1969 and 1976, but low productivity and overharvest limited the herd’s growth. No goats have been reported in the Columbia Gorge since 1990.

A total of 21 goats were released in the Elkhorn Mountains during the 1980s, using six from Idaho, eight from Washington and seven from Alaska. Productivity in this herd has been good and the population has increased rapidly. The population estimate in 2003 was 150 goats. Individuals from this population continue to move into adjacent habitat including Vinegar Hill and the Strawberry Mountains.

Sixteen goats were captured in the Elkhorn Mountains in 2002 and released in Hell’s Canyon. This herd had increased to an estimated 40 animals last year.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission approved ODFW’s Bighorn Sheep and Rocky Mountain Goat Management Plan in September 2003.