Mountain goats in Olympic National Forest being airlifted, relocated

VIDEO: Dozens of goats relocated from Olympics to North Cascades

State and federal officials are transferring mountain goats from Olympic National Park to the north Cascades starting Monday.

A helicopter crew is using tranquilizer darts and net guns to capture mountain goats and transport them in specially made slings to a staging area.

They are then being trucked to their new homes in the Cascades.

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The air capture operations are being done by a private company that specializes in the capture and transport of wild animals.

The plan is to re-establish depleted populations of mountain goats to their native habitat in the north Cascades, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The goats have caused problems for hikers in Olympic National Park in the past, following and approaching them because of the goats’ attraction to salt from hikers’ sweat, urine and food. A hiker was killed by an aggressive goat in the park in 2010.

"In addition, the north Cascades has an abundance of natural salt licks, while the Olympic Peninsula has virtually none," said Rich Harris, a WDFW wildlife manager who specializes in mountain goats.

"Natural salt licks greatly reduce mountain goats' attraction to people."

The operation will take about two weeks.  Two more two-week periods are planned for next year. Mountain goats were introduced to the Olympics in the 1920s, and there are an estimated 725 mountain goats on the Olympic Peninsula.

While some mountain goat populations in the north Cascades have recovered since the 1990s, they are still missing from many areas.

The goats will be released at five sites in the Cascades. Two areas are near mountain peaks south of the town of Darrington in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The others are near Mount Index, Tower Peak in the Methow area of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and the headwaters of the Cedar River Drainage, which is land owned by Seattle Public Utilities.

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