Twenty-four Rocky Mountain goats were captured from Baker County and placed at the base of Mt. Jefferson (“Salem’s mountain”) in recent weeks. The effort was to reintroduce a species wiped out by people several hundred years ago and ultimately to provide some of the animals for Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs members and other sportsmen to shoot.
Under an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife program called the Rocky Mountain Goat and Bighorn Sheep Management Plan, animals are transplanted to reestablish populations in their historic habitat. A site-specific plan guides the reintroduction and monitoring of the mountain goats in the Central Oregon Cascades.
The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs joined Fish and Wildlife department on the project and the animals were released on Confederated Tribes land. Contributions from the tribes and branches of several sportsman-wildlife organizations – Oregon Wildlife, Oregon Hunters Association and Safari Club International – also paid $13,650 to purchase GPS or radio collars for fourteen of the goats to wear. The collars will help wildlife managers track them.
Rocky Mountain goats are the rarest game animal hunted in Oregon today. Only 11 tags are available for the 2012 season. All Rocky Mountain goat tags are “once in a lifetime,” so once a hunter draws the tag, he or she may never draw it again. The Fish and Wildlife department also raffles off a Rocky Mountain tag each year to raise money for research and reintroduction efforts like this one. Raffle sales for this fall’s tag fetched $22,269.
The twenty-four goats included fourteen nannies, one adult billy, six yearling nannies, two female kids and one male kid. They will join a population of at least forty others that were released in the Central Oregon Cascades back in 2010.
“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… like Three-fingered Jack and Olallie Butte,” noted Doug Calvin, wildlife manager with Confederated 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,” he added.
The Confederated Tribes is 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 can hunt the goats on their lands.
In future years, Rocky Mountain goats may be released at other sites in the Central Oregon Cascades. As the goats establish themselves in the Cascades on non-tribal lands, hunting and viewing opportunities will become available for non-tribal Oregon residents and visitors.