Biologists fear mountain goat presence in Grand Teton park
By Ken Cole On April 11, 2010 · 32 Comments · In Bighorn Sheep
Mountain goats may compete with the struggling native bighorn sheep
Grand Teton National Park officials are worried that mountain goats may increase in the Park and compete with bighorn sheep. The goats were introduced into the Snake River Range by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and they have spread to the Teton Range. According to biologists there is no evidence that mountain goats inhabited the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Biologists fear goat presence in Grand Teton park
Tagged with: Bighorn Sheep • Invasive Species • mountain goats • National Park Service
Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.
32 Responses to Biologists fear mountain goat presence in Grand Teton park
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Yeah…I have to agree that there is no point in having goats in the Tetons or Wind Rivers…or in the Snake River Range for that matter. There is plenty of good goat habbitat to the northwest.
I think game departments were just transplant happy in the 60’s and 70’s and it might gernate some revenue from the sale of hunting tags. But, other than hunting, there is no point to it. We should try and keep native species in a given ecosystem.
They are pretty well established NE of Yellowstone as well as near Alpine, WY. It’s not like the two species don’t coexist naturally only a couple hundred miles to the north. I’ve seen goats in Gibbon Canyon in YNP. If it was an Ibex or a Marco Polo sheep I think it would be worth intervening. I say let them be—they aren’t too exotic.
The reintroduction of Mountain Goats to our corner of the Rocky Mountains in the 1950’s has never made ecological sense to me, although I definitely enjoy seeing the goats in the Beartooth Mountains between my town of Cody Wy and Red Lodge. That herd has done so well it developed several sub-herds, now ranging back west into northeast Yellowstone Park . Isolated sightings in the headwaters of the Shoshone River are becoming more common. They do not play well with native Bighorn Sheep at all .
However, it’s worth noting in this thread that the Woodland Caribou ( a/k/a Reindeer) used to range from western Wyoming all the way to the Pacific ocean. After all, the national forest on Yellowstone’s west boundary is the Caribou-Targhee Forest , and Caribou County is there in Idaho.
Today , the only remnant Caribou animals are in far northern Idaho. the so called Selkirk herd. They are even quite scarce in southern British Columbia. The presence of goats in the Yellowstone ecosystem , and the lack of Caribou, leave humans with much to answer for.
Goats & Bighorns are in Glacier NP, is there an issue in this park? Goats were introduced into Olympic NP in the 1920″s (there are no Bighorns) & in the past there were discussions about trying to remove them but they never did. There were plant issues that drove the concern. The healthy lion population in the Olympics haven’t made a dent in the goat population.
Olympic started removing goats because they were destroying the alpine vegetation but were stopped by lawsuits. I guess for some people, if an animal is attractive it’s okay to be non-native and damaging to the ecosystem.
If Grand Teton wants to kill the goats they better hurry and do it now while the population and cost (PR and $) are low. By doing nothing when the goats first started entering the part, Yellowstone let the population increase to the point where any killing will be a financial drain and public relations disaster.
Are they going to also begin killing them in YNP? What about RMNP? Colorado imported a lot of goats and they are well established and hunted all over the state. What is the specific issue with Olympic NP and goats? Are there elk in the park? Bighorns?
There are elk on the Olympic Peninsula but I don’t think there are bighorn sheep. I think the problem with mountain goats in Olympic NP is that there were never any ungulates living in the mountains and so the plants evolved without them.
I understand that goats probably aren’t hurting anything and they are nice to look at but it is a dangerous precedent to allow them. If we allow goats, then someone in the future may want Ibex or other exotic species. There has to be rules about human intervention in ecology and I’d say one of them might as well be no transplanting of nonnative species into an areas where they never existed. It may not be the best of rules and there might be some special cases for endangered species but it is the only rule that has some basis in ecology itself and is not base on some subjective opinion.
Pointswest, while the hunting revenue might be good from transplanting goats, I agree that animals should not be transplanted to new areas. (I say this even though I do enjoy a good pheasant hunt). It does set a dangerous precedent to allow other animals to be places in areas they are not native to and don’t belong. CC, the idea of removing an animal that is attractive is a huge concern and such a PR nightmare, like with wild horses. I agree that both Grand Teton and Yellowstone need to remove the goats quickly.
I think wild horses and burrows should go away too. I know that it will be tough because there are a lot of wild horse lovers but it is my opinion. I would much rather see deer, elk, and antelope than wild horses.
Something like pheasants I have no problem with since they live predominantly in farmland that is not natural anyway. Pheasants, quail, partridge, anything like that in farmland.
++ while the hunting revenue might be good from transplanting goats, I agree that animals should not be transplanted to new areas.++
ProWolf in Wy, I know the hunting revenue is going to be so small that it will cost a game department money. At the most there would be no more than 5 to 10 permits issued per year at $125 each (Montana Price). This does not even cover the cost to publish the hunt in the regulations, conduct a drawing and issue permits. It is about creating opportunity.
I think a new tax scheme to fund wildlife management is needed. I don’t have the answers but I can sure see the problem. It would be nice if some tax money came from tourists and recreationists. I guess some taxes might come them via sales tax but since so many, besides hunters, are becoming interested in wildlife, a more tranparent tax structure might be instituted. I don’t especially mean more taxes or more fees, just a transparent structure where those taxed are represented in the goals and acheivements of wildlife managers.
States’s Fish and Game departments being funded by hunting licenses and tags is a little outdated.
I just don’t think MT or WY are going to try to eliminate goats outside of the parks so they will always be colonizing in the parks. Since the ecology of the Rockies evolved with grazers at all elevations, unlike the Olympic Penninsula I don’t see the harm of Rocky Mountain Goats expanding their range in the Central and Southern Rockies. Are there any examples other than Olympic National Park where goats have caused ecological harm to bighorns or other species? They have been successfully introduced into Colorado, Utah, Southern Idaho, California and even the Black Hills of South Dakota. What are the issues?
Goats have been introduced into quite a few areas and as far as I know they haven’t had a negative impact, or at least not one that has been apparent yet. The same thing has been done with moose in Colorado and turkeys nationwide. My worry is that this would set up a precedent as pointswest has said. Who is to say that people would stop at mountain goats? In New Mexico they have introduced ibexes and gemsbok. From what I understand the gemsbok have been problematic.
There may (or may not) be issues that we are not yet aware of. Some issues might not really show up for decades. Why were there no goats in WY and CO? It seems like they would have been able to cross the deserts during the last ice age.
The greatest concern for me is that it is a bad precedent. If we can have goats, why not snow leppards? Why not takins? How about wild horses? How about feral goats? You have to draw the line somewhere. So mountain goats is the line? Maybe wild horses and mountain goats? We can draw a clearly defined line at mountain goats and horses?
The fact that they are a native wild species to North America is a pretty good start. What is to be gained by their elimination? They coexist in Glacier NP and many other spots. Is there any significant difference between the Rockies of BC, Alberta etc…and YNP or GTNP or RMNP?
That is a study that probably should be done.
Dall Sheep are a North American Speicies. They would probably do well in the Wind River Range.
Why do we want to do it…because we can? I think that was probably one of the main motives for transplanting goats to the Snake River Range. Game Mangegers just wanted to show how much swing they had with mother nature. I beleive they thought they would be heros in the eyes of many hunters and they probably were. Times have changed, however, and hunters are no longer the only people who care about big game. People today want to see nature untouched by the hand of man. People today are unimpressed by game managers’ ability to transplant animals. People today do not want a Disney Land, with all the interesting beasts, designed for them by game mangers.
There must be ten’s of thousands of goats in the Northern Rockies…why do we need to artificially expand their range into places where they did not exist naturally? Disney Land is great for kids but I want to see things as they were before civilization ever moved west, where possible.
Pointswest, that last point is the one I agree with the most. It would be nice to keep these ecosystems as untouched as possible.
Dall sheep are pretty much the same as a bighorn and they would interbreed is suspect.
Just another quick thought—Shouldn’t GTNP remove the sage grouse that were introduced in Jackson Hole. They were not native to the valley WY G&F transplanted birds from Sublette County years ago. Who knows what impacts they are having on the sage environement of Antelope Flats…
Why were sage grouse released in Grand Teton National Park?
Are you sure they were never there before…like before settlers moved into Jackson Hole. It seems a little strange that they would not be native to Jackson Hole since they are native all around it.
It is possible they were there before settlement but the ranchers killed them all aournd the turn of the century, or, perhaps it was a combination of ranchers hunting them, cattle, sheep, and disease from domesticated chickens…something natsy combination just wiped them out of the valley.
There are sage hens across the Tetons in Idaho, to the south near Pinedale, and to the east near Cody. Jackson Hole was surrounded by sage hens.
It is a pretty well known fact that the Sage Grouse in Jackson Hole are not considered native and were clearly introduced, not REintroduced in Jackson Hole. The snow hisotrically was probably too deep. They reside almost entirely in GTNP. Their leks are on Mormon Row on Antelope flats
Parts of Jackson Hole does not get very much snow since there is a rain shadow created by the Teton Range. If they can survive now, they might have survived earlier.
Why do you say, “were clearly intoduced, not REintroduced”?
How does anyone know.
Seeing or killing sage grouse is something that might go unreported in any of the journals we have from early explorers, trappers, and visitors. Mountain goats, would probably have been reported in the journals.
It is possible they were wiped out by the early trappers who liked the area. They are a very easy bird to hunt.
I would probably give sage grouse a pass and let them stay if I ran the show.
The Wyoming Game and Fish records clearly show they were introduced and they state that there wasn’t any recored of their existence. That is as good as any record suggesting Goats are not native—perhaps killed out? GTNP aknowledges their importation and though they protect the leks with season closures they don’t actively manage for the species benefit. This is all common knowledge in Jackson.
I have to wonder how solid the evidence is that the mountain goats are totally not native to the whole Yellowstone ecosystem. They are native to the general area and ecotype–cliffs northwest west of the continental divide in the Rockies, right?
What is the closest known historical placement? Would they have to find fossils or remains in the park? An account from an early settler? What if some early people in the area–European or native–really wiped them out?
Mountain Goats were planted by the Montana Fish and Game in the Beartooth Mountains in the 1930’s. Historically there were no goats in these mountains. The fish and game planted them to increase the number of mountain goats in the state and to increase hunter opportunities.
The closest know native goats are west of Lima, Montana and that is about there native southern range.
Elk, you’re kind of familar with the Maverick Mtn. Ski area, north of Dillon, in the Pioneers? I saw a few goats up on that mountain range (scoping from the lodge at Maverick) in the spring and into the summer a few years ago.
They’d hang out early morning on the hillsides and then disappear over to the south side (towards Argenta) in the heat of the day. Haven’t been back up there in the last few years, but I’m thinking maybe still a population of goats no one notices? Alot of nice, mountain range for them to hang out in though.
I have been to Maverick Mountain Ski area in the summer, there are two ski area that I have not ski, one is Maverick Mountain and the other is Lost Trail; I need to ski them before the knees are gone. My ski racing days from the 60’s are slowly taking a toll. I have known that there are goats in the Pioneers, as, I used to hunting guide on the west side of the Pioneers.
I do not know if the goats in the Pioneers are native but I suspect they are. The goats on the west side of the Big Hole are native goat. The Pioneer Mountains are in goat area 312 and they issued 8 permits this year. If they are native goat then there are about 160 goats in those mountains, as they issue permits for 5% of the native goat population and 7% of the introduce goat population. This is from what I read a number of years ago.
I kinda guessed after your last post with Save Bears that you lived in the Grasshopper/Polaris area. That is one nice neck of the woods but in the past the winters have been brutal.
It is the 4th and I am heading to the western part of the state until Tuesday night.
Since it is “Show and Tell” i first saw a goat on yellowstones SE Trident in the mid to late 90’s. then I saw it…just the one…. every year after till I left in 2003. Always up high at or above timber line. Was interesting to glass while scoping for sheep poachers…but always thought one may be interesting but a bunch could be detrimental to Yellowstone’s largest alpine area…the Trident.
Goats are very abundant here – its probably one of the few areas left (and the only region in Alaska) where you can just pick up a tag to hunt them every year. Not that many people do (probably almost none). I did it once and that was plenty – great adventure and it was good but Sitka blacktail is tastier. They start to get their prime coasts, looking like puff balls, about the time footing gets really treacherous in the mountains. They are the primary prey (in winter at least) of the local mainland wolves, which seem to go after them much more than moose and deer – and are perhaps also why we have so many wolverines. There are still a number of women who craft beautiful traditional Chilkat blankets from the fur.