Goat sacrifice to begin at Olympic National Park

Goat sacrifice to begin at Olympic National Park

(Beth Clifton collage)

284-page “management plan” garbles history,  all but ignores climate change,  & says nothing about goats as puma prey

            OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK,  Washington––An estimated 625 to 675 mountain goats whose ancestors have peaceably roamed the icy upper reaches of Olympic National Park,  Washington,  for 14 years longer than the 80-year-old park has existed are to become sacrificial scapegoats during the summer of 2018,  and over the next three to five years,  to ecological misconceptions written into the Wilderness Act of 1964,  enshrined as National Park Service policy.

One such misconception is that “introduced” species are inherently harmful to “native” species,  even if the “introduced” species thrive as “native” just 100 miles away,  among essentially  the same suite of other animals and plants.

(Beth Clifton collage)

“Untrammeled by man”?

Another misconception is that what is now Olympic National Park,  attracting 3.4 million visitors in 2017,  ever fit the Wilderness Act criteria of being “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man,  where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

The 3.4 million visitors have approximately the same cumulative ecological impact as a year-round community of 9,000 people.  And the mere existence of more than 200 sites in the park where archaeological artifacts have been found,  mentioned often in the newly published 284-page Mountain Goat Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement, points toward frequent,  if not necessarily continuous use of the habitat by Native Americans for thousands of years.

Native American activities,  as well as logging,  hunting,  and ranching by settlers,  helped to shape the habitat and balance of species into which mountain goats were released in 1925-1929 by forest rangers who hoped to attract trophy hunters.

(Beth Clifton collage)

“Move half & shoot the rest”

Co-produced by the National Park Service,  U.S. Forest Service,  USDA Wildlife Services,  and the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Mountain Goat Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement recommends “the relocation of the majority of mountain goats [now present in Olympic National Park] to U.S. Forest Service lands in the North Cascades forests,  and the lethal removal of the remaining mountain goats in the park.”

What that means,  specifically,  is that efforts are to be made during the next several summers to capture 325 to 375 mountain goats by luring them into “clover traps,”  meaning stockades baited with clover,  netting them through the use of net guns,  sedating them,  flying them in helicopter slings to waiting trucks,  and then trucking them overnight to release points in habitat which,  although technically “native” for the goats,  none have ever seen before.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Goats to be moved to “huntable” habitat

The habitat in the North Cascades differs little,  in matters of concern to mountain goats,  from the habitat in Olympic National Park.  But despite the ambitions of the rangers who released the first dozen mountain goats in what is now Olympic National Park,  hunting has not been allowed in the park since it was created by an act of Congress in 1938.

Only those few mountain goats who may have descended into the Olympic National Forest,  surrounding Olympic National Park,  during hunting season,  will have had any prior experience of being hunted other than by pumas,  their main natural predator.

In the North Cascades the mountain goats may be hunted.  Indeed,  the major argument for translocating them in the Mountain Goat Management Plan is that the native mountain goats in the North Cascades have been hunted to scarcity,  and have had difficulty recovering “huntable” abundance.

(Beth Clifton)


Meanwhile back in Olympic National Park,  mountain goats who become wary enough to evade capture during the early phases of the attempt to extirpate them are eventually to be shot.  Some may be gunned down from trails,  others from helicopters.

Says the Mountain Goat Management Plan about when and how the decision to stop capturing goats and start shooting them is to be made,  “The determination about whether it is no longer safe to capture more mountain goats,  from a human and mountain goat safety standpoint, would be made by a consensus of the project leaders,  consulting veterinarians,  and the capture contractor,  and would be based on the rate and type of capture-related mountain goat mortalities and environmental conditions.

“Ceasing operations would also be based on capture efficiency. When it takes approximately three times as long to safely capture a mountain goat, as compared to the hours during the initial capture operation phase during the first year, capture operations would cease.”

(Beth Clifton collage)

No remains to be left where visible

The Mountain Goat Management Planstipulates that the remains of mountain goats are not to be left within 325 feet of trails,  partly to avoid attracting dangerous scavenging wildlife into proximity to humans,  partly to avoid having Olympic National Park visitors see dead mountain goats and began objecting to the “mountain goat management plan.”

Along the way,  the Mountain Goat Management Plan argues that reducing Olympic National Park biodiversity by removing mountain goats is to be done to protect the native biodiversity of plants,  though the major ecological role of mountain goats––like that of other herbivores––is depositing plant seeds in new habitat, along with the fertilizer that the seeds need to grow.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Goats originally persecuted as campground nuisance

“The original need to manage this exotic species,”  the Mountain Goat Management Plan inaccurately claims,  “was an ecological concern related to the impacts that mountain goats impose on natural resources at the park,  particularly sensitive vegetation communities (NPS 1995; Houston, Schreiner, and Moorhead 1994).”

NewspaperArchive.com demonstrates that this is fiction.  The first public complaints about the presence of mountain goats in Olympic National Park surfaced in 1969,  and concerned salt-seeking goats licking and chewing clothing that visitors hung out to dry in campgrounds.

Four goats were translocated from Olympic National Park to the nearby Gilbert Pinchot National Forest in 1972,  but the first mention that all of the goats should be removed as a “non-native” species came only after that,  as did the first suggestion that the goats might be harming native plants.

Ranger explains safe behavior around mountain goats in Olympic National Park.

407 goats moved,  1981-1989

More goat translocations followed,  but primarily to rebuild populations elsewhere that had been hunted out.  Acknowledges  the Mountain Goat Management Plan,  “The park implemented a series of live capture operations from 1981 to 1989,  translocating 407 mountain goats to other mountain ranges throughout several western states.  An additional 119 mountain goats were legally harvested during sport hunting seasons outside the park,”  the Mountain Goat Management Plan notes,  “and three known mountain goats were illegally harvested [poached] in the park between 1983 and 1997.”

Protecting the safety of Olympic National Park visitors continued to be the main argument made for mountain goat removal before the mid-1990s,  though the first and only serious injury attributed to mountain goats before 1999 came in August 1975.

Goats kill one,  injure two,  in 80 years

Then,  according to the Port Angeles News,  “Daniel Hanify,  17,  was watching goats climbing on the rocks above him on Mt. Angeles when one goat apparently started rocks tumbling.  One large rock struck Hanify on the head.”

Hanify suffered a skull fracture,  but was able to walk to the nearest road,  with the help of two friends,  to be driven to meet a helicopter that flew him to Olympic Memorial Hospital.

A visitor suffered a non-fatal goring in 1999.  Then,  the Mountain Goat Management Plan mentions,  “Safety concerns were increased in 2010 when a visitor,”  63-year-old Robert H. Boardman,  “was fatally gored by a mountain goat while hiking on a park trail.”

Thus,  in 80 years,  fewer visitors have been killed or badly injured by mountain goats in Olympic National Park than typically die and are injured in the worst several vehicular accidents in the park and on park access roads each and every tourist season.

(Ashley Rawhouser/National Park Service photo)

Goats blamed,  not global warming

Discussion of the possible mountain goat impact on rare native plants began to be raised with increasing frequency after 1977.

Says the Mountain Goat Management Plan,  “Through herbivory and wallowing behaviors, mountain goats have directly and indirectly affected the vegetation in the Olympic Mountains.  Changes in the relative abundance of plant species have been observed as a result of mountain goat herbivory; this has altered competitive interactions among plant species.  As the mountain goat population on the Olympic Peninsula increased prior to live capture operations in the 1980s, changes in vegetation were substantial, and the status of rare plant populations became a concern.”

Not even mentioned,  however,  are the major climatic effects on park vegetation caused by global warming,  beginning to become visible during the same years,  and having an accelerating impact today,  as the year-round icepack retreats to higher elevations,  less precipitation falls,  stream temperatures warm,  and the risk of wildfires increases.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Population fluctuations

After nine years of more-or-less continuous translocations of mountain goats,  the Olympic National Park population had been reduced from a peak estimate of more than 1,000 to 389,  according to a July 1990 survey.

“Live capture operations were halted in 1990 for several reasons,  including employee safety,  animal safety,  and changing Department of the Interior rules concerning helicopter landing techniques,”  the Mountain Goat Management Plan says.  “Subsequent surveys were conducted in 1994, 1997, and 2004.  A survey conducted in 2011 revealed that the population started increasing between 2004 and 2011.  Most recently,  a 2016 survey revealed that the population has continued to increase to an estimated 625 mountain goats,  with an 8% average annual rate of increase from 2004 to 2016.  At this growth rate,  there could be approximately 725 mountain goats on the Olympic Peninsula by 2018.”

Puma at Big Cat Rescue.  (Beth Clifton photo)


Significantly,  though discussing the population of a prey species without mentioning the species’ major predators would appear to be nonsense,  the Mountain Goat Management Plan includes no statement of the relative abundance of pumas in Olympic National Park,  and there appears to be no recent puma population assessment for the park in any other context.

To what extent pumas might suffer from no longer having mountain goats to hunt is also not discussed.

(National Park Service photo)

Contraceptive use rejected

The Mountain Goat Management Planrejects any use of contraceptives to reduce and suppress Olympic National Park goat numbers.

“Although fertility control has been demonstrated to be effective in controlling individual animal fertility,”  the plan states,   chiefly because “Where fertility control has been successful, it has limited population growth,  but has not eliminated wild ungulate populations.”

Continues the Mountain Goat Management Plan,  “Chemical agents, such as immunocontraceptive vaccines (e.g., native PZP or GnRH vaccines),  require repeated doses to the same animal,  to be highly effective at suppressing fertility.  Due to the remote, rugged, and extreme terrain where the mountain goats reside,  helicopter darting during the summer months would be necessary to either capture or vaccinate the goats.  This would require several months of flying each year.  In the Olympic Mountains, such a program would be costly, impactful, and not effective for eliminating goats or their impacts because it would be impossible to treat a sufficient number to significantly impact population dynamics. In addition,  over time,  goats would learn to avoid helicopters.”

(Beth Clifton collage)

“Wilderness values”

Finally,  says the Mountain Goat Management Plan,  echoing the language used in lawsuits against U.S. government agencies by opponents of using immunocontraceptives to stabilize wild horse populations,  “The use of fertility control adversely affects wilderness values because it is not a natural process.  Fertility control as an authorized management action would have a negative effect on the untrammeled and natural qualities of wilderness character because it would be an intentional manipulation of the biophysical environment.”

Beth & Merritt Clifton
Animals 24-7

In particular,  “If all goats were to be indiscriminately darted from the air,  this would be an adverse effect on the undeveloped quality of wilderness character.  Noise from helicopters would disrupt the natural soundscape and area closures to visitors may need to be in effect during darting operations. Most concerning is that these actions would need to take place on a regular basis to be effective until all exotic goats are eliminated.”

All of which will also be true of helicoptering mountain goats to trucks and then using gunners aboard helicopters to shoot the 300-plus who are expected to evade capture.

Camera ‘trapper’ hits jackpot with stunning video of 4 mountain lions near L.A.

A mother mountain lion with her three cubs are caught on a camera trapper’s motion sensor camera. Photo courtesy of © Robert Martinez of Parliament of Owls.

Robert Martinez, who is among a so-called group of camera trappers, has been searching for mountain lions in the wild since 2012, or ever since capturing “crystal clear” video of a mountain lion walking past his motion sensor video camera.

Hooked by this new hobby, Martinez sets several camera traps in likely areas visited by mountain lions in the Angeles National Forest above Glendora, some 27 miles west of Los Angeles.

He’s become quite good at it and recently hit the camera trapper jackpot when one of his cameras captured stunning video of a mountain lion mother quietly calling out to its three cubs on Sunset Ridge at sunset.

Martinez shared the video on his YouTube channel called Parliament of Owls, urging the volume be turned up to catch the mother’s callout:

“This video is definitely one of my favorites,” Martinez told USA Today.

“What you’re seeing is Limpy and her 10-month-old kittens returning to an area where I hadn’t seen them since November. So when she showed up on my video, and the sun was setting, I was really excited! I was waiting for her eventual return with her new litter.”

The video was featured in LA Observed and was subsequently shown on several Southern California television news outlets over the weekend.

Also on BNQT Outdoors: Fur coat saves sloth bear in rare and ‘severe’ fight with tiger; video

Martinez explained to USA Today that he nicknamed the mountain lion Limpy because of a limp in her rear right leg that he first noticed in 2013.

“Most of the lions I see on camera—over a dozen—I can’t identify because they don’t have any distinct characteristics, like a limp, a nick or a scar on their face,” Martinez said.

The camera trapper calls Limpy a “treasure” of the Angeles National forest for producing five healthy cougars in the last few years.

“Despite her limp, she is a symbol of survival and perseverance, able to hunt, feed and raise two litters of kittens,” Martinez wrote on Facebook. “I’m looking forward to seeing more of her and the family all throughout 2018.”

So are we.

Animal-rights group wants Arizona voters to ban hunting of mountain lions, bobcats


  • By Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services
  • Updated 
Mountain lions
The hunting of mountain lions and other big cats is largely considered trophy hunting.

George Andrejko / Game And Fish Department

PHOENIX — Saying there’s no reason for “trophy hunting” of mountain lions, the Humane Society of the United States is moving to get Arizona voters to outlaw the practice.

The group’s proposal for the 2018 ballot would make it illegal to pursue, shoot, snare, net or capture any “wild cat.” That specifically means bobcats and mountain lions.

As written, the ban also technically would apply to jaguars, lynx and ocelot. But those already are protected as endangered species.

“People no longer really tolerate trophy hunting,” said Kellye Pinkleton, the Humane Society’s state director. “People are not shooting them, hounding them, trapping them for subsistence.”

But Kurt Davis, a member of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, said the number of mountain lions killed each year — about 360 in 2015, the most recent number available — simply keeps the population in check and ensures that prey species, including bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope, are not decimated.

Davis said he sees the proposed initiative as part of an effort to ban hunting entirely.

Pinkleton responded: “We do not have any blanket opposition to hunting.”

Backers of the ban on hunting big cats have until next July to gather 150,642 valid signatures on petitions to get the issue on the ballot.

The Humane Society and its local affiliate have a track record with voters. In 1994 they succeeded in getting Arizona voters to approve a ban on the use of leg-hold traps on public lands by a margin of close to 3-2.

Pinkleton noted that initiative laws have since been tightened by the Republican-controlled Legislature, with a ban on paying circulators on a per-signature basis and a requirement that petition papers be in “strict compliance” with all election laws.

But she said her organization and other allies should be able to raise the $3 million to $5 million it will take to force a public vote.

If it gets that far, it could be difficult to defeat. Davis said Arizona has a higher percentage of urban residents than any other “inland” state, meaning people less likely to go hunting.

That means the Game and Fish Commission and hunters will need to make their case that the practice should not be outlawed.

Davis said it comes down to science.

He estimated there about about 2,500 mountain lions in Arizona.

Each year the state issues more than 10,000 tags to hunt mountain lions. Davis said the commission’s experience is that, given the difficulty to actually kill one, that keeps the population in the 2,000 to 3,000 range, which he said is ideal.

Pinkleton disagreed. “The science doesn’t back up their claims,” she said.

She said the initiative would still allow killing of mountain lions in cases where they were endangering humans or killing other animals, whether a rancher’s cattle or the bighorn sheep that have been reintroduced into the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area near Tucson.

The difference, she said, is that only the actual lions causing the problem could be hunted, versus simply telling hunters they can go out and shoot them in the area to cut down on the population.

Davis said such an approach makes little sense.

He said a 1990 initiative banning the killing of mountain lions in California now results in more of the big cats being killed by state officials to protect other species than were taken by hunters.

Pinkleton said there’s a good reason why the Arizona initiative would outlaw only the killing of wild cats.

“These essentially are killed for trophies or for fur,” she said, and for “bragging rights” about killing a lion.

“This is not deer or elk where communities are using the whole animal, whether for the meat or whatever,” she continued. “This is not a subsistence animal.”

Davis takes exception to pushing the initiative as a ban on hunting “trophy” animals.

“The notion of ‘trophy’ is a political notion that they’ve tested and polled,” with no actual legal basis, he said.

If the test of “trophy hunting” is whether hunters actually eat what they kill, that would include the hunting of coyotes, Davis said.

Beyond that, he said the initiative ignores that hunting is “a tool used by our state’s biologists … to manage our state’s wildlife.”

“Thank god … that you have hunters, both men and women sportsmen, that are willing to go out and be part of the management tools to maintain healthy populations of all of our species,” he said.

Bobcats, which Davis said number “in the thousands” in Arizona, are a different situation. They are classified the same as coyotes, raccoons and skunks, which can be hunted at all times without a special permit.

According to the Game and Fish Department, 1,300 bobcats are killed each year, on average.

Part of the debate is likely to involve methods used by some hunters.

“If a pack of dogs chases a mountain lion into a tree, and they are shot, that is not a fair chase,” Pinkleton said.

Davis countered, “That’s one of those issues that you see and hear, and it creates an emotional response.” But he said that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong.

“The traditions of using hounds to pursue lions is something that existed in our country since its foundation,” he said. Anyway, Davis said, only a “small number” of people have the ability to use dogs. “I don’t,” he said.

The numbers from the Game and Fish Department suggest that the use of dogs does make a big difference, however: Out of 324 mountain lions killed in 2015 by hunters, 247 of those were with the use of dogs.