Status of Mtn Goats in WA: Beers w/ Bios Recap

Will Moore presented on the current status of mountain goats across Washington State. The event was standing room only  with over 50 people packing into the event room. The presentation covered the full gambit from how unique mountain goats are, to their biology and how they are managed by WDFW. The audience was fully engaged, asking questions throughout. Will shared that we are at a low point in historic mountain goat populations. The historic estimates, based on long term harvest data, indicate there used to be approximately 8,500 goats in Washington, but by 2007 their population had fallen to only 2,500. Evidence points to over hunting at the main culprit attributed to the long term decline. Since 2007 populations have fluctuated but currently most are in decline. The exceptions are the Mt St. Helens and Margeret Backcountry herds, which are actively growing. WDFW speculates a portion of the blame for the current declines is due to the drought in 2015 and immediately preceded by the heavy snowfall winter in 2016/2017. However, those would likely only contribute to an initial decline in those years but many herds have continued to decline since then.  Other possible reasons for decline are pneumonia (mycoplasma ovipneumoniae), fluctuations in climate, pressure from recreation, and/or emigration of goats to other areas.

WDFW points to a lack of data contributing to their uncertainty about this decline. Part of the challenge in collecting population data is the ruggedness of their habitat and their aversion to helicopters, which is significantly more pronounced than with other ungulates. Mountain goats will actively and aggressively hide when they hear a helicopter approaching, making it very challenging to get good estimates of population numbers. WDFW has strategized ways to mitigate these impediments, including revisions to survey methods and re allocation of survey dollars to cover more goat herds. Citizens can report mountain goat encounters (LINK) to help WDFW identify mountain goat distribution.

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