A native of the Northern Rocky Mountains, mountain goats were introduced to the state of Utah nearly 50 years ago following the release of six goats. The population quickly grew and was eventually able to support hunting by 1981.
As of recently, however, portions of the state have been experiencing declining numbers of mountain goats and state biologists are interested in learning why. With the secluded range in which these goats reside, the plan will involve the use of helicopters to capture and eventually collar 30 goats, in an attempt to better understand their declining numbers.
“We will monitor their movements and survival and identify limiting factors. We will see if it’s a disease, predation or habitat issue,” DWR biologist Rusty Robinson told The Salt Lake Tribune.
“There are a lot of things we don’t know about mountain goat disease. If that’s the cause of this decline, there are things we can learn from this.”
In the ten year period between 2004 and 2014, the goat population on Lone Peak decreased by nearly 84 percent. Neighboring Box Elder Peak experienced a 32 percent decline and Mount Timpanogos fell by 30 percent.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is hopeful their biologists will be able to secure 20 collars on goals this fall followed by the final 10 collars in the fall of 2017. Given the geographical location of the peaks, the project will require special permission from the U.S. Forest Service. The Forest Service has since launched an Environmental Assessment open for public comment, despite the fact that the project expects to cause very little ground impact.