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98 mountain goats moved from Olympics to Cascades; 11 die before or during relocation

A two-week long effort to capture and relocate mountain goats from Olympic National Park to the northern Cascade Mountains wrapped up on Monday. 

Of the 115 mountain goats that were removed from the national park, 98 of them were moved to the Cascades, including 11 kids that were released with their nannies. Six mountain goat kids that couldn't be paired up with their mothers were moved to Northwest Trek Wildlife Park.

Six adult mountain goats died during capture, and two more died during transport the first day. Three goats were euthanized because they were deemed unfit for relocation.

“The success of this year’s translocation effort is thanks to the cooperation and expertise of more than 175 people, including 77 volunteers from WDFW,” said Olympic National Park Wildlife Branch Chief Dr. Patti Happe. “The collaboration with our partner agencies and the support from everyone involved was phenomenal.”

The goat translocation project is a joint effort between the National Park Service (NPS), the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), and the USDA Forest Service (USFS) to re-establish and assist in connecting depleted populations of mountain goats in the Washington Cascades.

While some mountain goat populations in the north Cascades have recovered since the 1990s, the species is still absent or rare from many areas of its historic range. 

It's an effort officials said will protect natural resources, reduce visitor safety issues and boost native goat populations elsewhere in Washington state.

Professional crews used tranquilizer darts and net guns to capture the animals from rocky ridges and slopes within the national park, located about 100 miles west of Seattle.

The animals were blindfolded, put into specially made slings and airlifted to a staging area in the park. They were examined, collared with a tracking device, given fluids and then began a journey by truck and ferry to another area in the North Cascades.

From there, they were flown in crates and released into alpine habitat.

Park officials estimate between 275 and 325 goats that can't be caught will eventually be shot and killed.

Introduced to the area nearly a century ago, before the park was established, goats eat and trample sensitive vegetation, disturb soil when they wallow and can be menacing to backpackers and other visitors on trails, officials said. In 2010, an aggressive goat fatally charged at a hiker on a popular trail who followed him and his companions, renewing concerns about safety.

Two additional two-week periods are planned for 2019. Capture and translocation may continue into 2020 depending on the results of the efforts in 2019.