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Counting Mountain Goats At Olympic National Park


If weather and equipment cooperate, wildlife biologists will begin counting mountain goats in Olympic National Park and the neighboring Olympic National Forest next week.

The count by U.S. Geological Survey and park staff is scheduled to be done from a low-flying helicopter during early morning hours between July 18 and July 28, focusing on ice-free areas above 4,500 feet in elevation, according to a park release.

The helicopter will operate from a landing area at Deer Park.  Visitors may experience brief traffic delays when the helicopter is landing or taking off, and campers there may be awakened at dawn on days that census flights are scheduled.

“This survey is part of Olympic National Park’s ongoing effort to maintain current information about the population status of the park’s non-native mountain goats,” said Olympic Superintendent Karen Gustin.

Preliminary results of the 2011 census will be available in August.

The last mountain goat census was conducted in 2004 and estimated the population to contain between 259 and 320 mountain goats. Park officials say this estimate was statistically no different than previous censuses conducted in 1997, 1994 and 1990.

The 1997 census indicated a mountain goat population between 237 and 325, whereas the 1994 census indicated a population of between 225 and 351 mountain goats. The 1990 census resulted in an estimate of between 181 and 597 mountain goats.

Mountain goats were introduced to the Olympic Mountains in the 1920s, prior to establishment of Olympic National Park.


White goats, white lies: the misuse of science in Olympic National Park By R. Lee Lyman [color=#0000ff]R. Lee Lyman[/color][/url][color=#0000ff]0 Reviews[/color][color=#0000ff]Nature[/color][/url] - 278 pagesAlthough Mountain Goats are native to the Cascade range, they do not appear to have been present in the Olympic Mountains during historic times. Wildlife managers introduced goats in small numbers in what-became Olympic National Park in 1925 and sporadically thereafter for the next twenty years. Because of its protected status, the goat population burgeoned. From the 1950s through the 1970s the goats were one of the features the Park Service used to attract visitors. Then the values of the Park wildlife managers shifted. According to a 1981 statement by the National Park Service (NPS), the mountain goats in Olympic National Park "appear to be significantly altering the alpine ecosystem the park was designed to protect and preserve. As a result, park managers have argued that the goats must be eradicated". An eradication program has been in place for several years now. The surrounding controversy has made for strange bedfellows: archaeologists, animal rights activists, and politicians vs. the Sierra Club and National Park Service.
White Goats, White Lies does not argue for or against eradication of "exotics" in Olympic and other national parks. Rather it examines the science used to justify the current park position and questions the extent to which science is an afterthought to NPS decisions. Author R. Lee Lyman questions the notion underlying current park management philosophy that posits an edenic, prehuman condition in nature by which wilderness and park health can be measured. Lyman asserts that it is both difficult to know with certainty what the "pre-goat" ecosystem was and that such static, pristine models fail to take into account the role of native human populations or evenclimatic variation. In the face of proposed "active rehabilitation" by the NPS, he counters that this is yet another example of god-playing, as questionable as the original introduction of the mountain goats.

White goats, white lies: the misuse of science in Olympic National Park By R. Lee Lyman
A review by Arthur Digbee:
This book maintains that the National Park Service (NPS) has used
inadequate science to reach the conclusion that mountain goats are not
native to the Olympic Peninsula and therefore should be removed from
Olympic National Park.  The books is fully convincing on this point: NPS
science would not survive an audit.  This is not the only park where
this is true - - indeed, the elk controversy in Yellowstone involves one
of the same park biologists, Doug Houston.
Lyman seems unaware or unconcerned that almost no science would
survive the kind of spotlight that he has trained on the NPS.  This has
been a recurring theme in the sociology of science, for example, and it
lies behind the claims of many in that field that scientific truth
claims are socially constructed and not "true" in the sense intended. 
Thus, one might make this part of a wider argument about science, but
Lyman does not do this.  Indeed, Lyman seems certain that the
application of enough research effort generally yields a unique,
widely-accepted and true conclusion.  (One might challenge the validity
of each of those adjectives, I might note.)
Instead of thinking about the use of science for policy problems,
Lyman chooses to go at the NPS like a cross-examining attorney.  The NPS
maintains that the people who introduced mountain goats to the park in
1925 did so because they wanted to establish a new game animal in the
park.  Lyman insists there's no proof this is true.  He's right, there
isn't any smoking gun.  But the likely groups involved are a hunting
club and the US Forest Service, with possible involvement of the
Biological Survey.  Why else would these people introduce goats? 
Especially in 1925, before the issues of exotic animals and the health
of ecosystems had become important to policy making?  One can, like
Lyman, demand ever better proof but at some point you have to present
your own interpretation of the facts.  Lyman does not do this.

The absence of Evidence is NOT Evidence of absence: mammals are mobile.  NPS Policy on indigenous
vs exotic species needs to be re-examined in the context of an ever-changing biota.  This Idea that what may
have existed in 1850 as seen through a "freeze-framed" photo can be re-created and maintained within scarce
resource management budgets of today is simply unrealistic.  In the context of restoring the
natural role of fire to landscapes where effective fire suppression has been practiced for the past 60 years,
one regional biologist chose these words as the mission: "to restore what would have been here had
European man not arrived and altered the vegetation."  The problem here is that no one knows exactly what
would have been here had European man not arrived; there is also disagreement on the the meaning of the term,
"Natural";  then there are the vast number of European-evolved weeds inheriting the Earth globally
wherever humans disturb the landscape's original native vegetation currently adapting to changing global climate patterns.

Had the NPS and Poachers not persecuted predators for so long, their role in controlling mountain goats
populations would be better understood and documented.  Consider the following reference:
David W. Nagorsen and Grant Keddie (2000) LATE PLEISTOCENE MOUNTAIN GOATS (OREAMNOS AMERICANUS) FROM VANCOUVER ISLAND: BIOGEOGRAPHIC IMPLICATIONS. Journal of Mammalogy: August 2000, Vol. 81, No. 3, pp. 666-675. doi: 10.1644/1545-1542(2000)081<0666:LPMGOA>2.3.CO;2


Editor was Troy L. Best.

Sorry for unreadable transferred text above; Hopefully, this re-typing works:

Although Oreamnos americanus is absent from most Pacific Coast Islands, including Vancouver Island,
12,000-yr.-old skeletal remains were recovered in 2 caves on northern Vancouver Island.  The specimens may
represent early postglacial immigrants or a relict population derived from a coastal glacial refugium.
Limb bones of the fossils are within the size range of modern specimens, suggesting a post glacial origin.
O. americanus probably became extinct on Vancouver Island during the early Holocene warming. but
inadequacies in the prehistoric faunal record prohibit a determination of a terminal date.  The modern
distribution of O. americanus on Pacific Coast Islands reflects both prehistoric extinctions and low
colonization rates across water barriers.

It is not true that mountain goats were introduced to the Olympics for hunting. The primary force behind goat introduction was the Klahhane Hiking Club, not hunters. Their intent was honorable--to introduce a animal species native to Washington State (Cascades) that is enjoyed by mountain climbers and hikers, which is still the case. The Klahhane Hiking Club also intended to introduce wildflower species not native to the Olympics, for the enjoyment of hikers. Whether this was done or not I am not sure, but the intent was there. It was common practice in the 1920s to introduce species for the enjoyment of visitors. Non-native fish were widely introduced into lakes in both the Cascades and Olympics. Non-native birds were also introduced. The recent fatality on Klahhane Ridge, although tragic, was a very rare case of aggressiveness by mountain goats. Goats are common in the western USA, Canada and Alaska and are hardly a dangerous animal--certainly nothing like bears or even cougars. Park Service has a hang up on mountain goats, which are still widely enjoyed by back country travelers in the Olympics.     

That hang up is also evident in attempting to bring back the dinosaurs (sucker fish) to a very uninhabitable environment (the cold waters of the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam). The spending of exceedingly precious dollars to decimate a trophy trout resource that thrives there.  Better money spent if they waited until the effort succeeds in dismantling  the dam and returns Arizona to darkness, no AC and the pre-dam water temperatures.  

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