- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

OGDEN, Utah (AP) - It starts with a net shot from a helicopter zipping low over the rocky spires of Willard Peak.

Within minutes, a heavily bearded man known as “the mugger” leaps from the helicopter and runs to a mountain goat trapped under the thick orange net.

With the speed and skill of a rodeo wrangler, the mugger ties the goat’s feet, covers its face and prepares the animal to be carried away in a bag beneath the waiting helicopter.

This is how you transport a mountain goat.

Dozens of volunteers and employees from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources met in North Fork Park to relocate 40 mountain goats from the Willard Peak area to central and southern Utah.

While they’re a popular sight now, mountain goats are not native to many parts of Utah. The first goats on Willard Peak were transplanted there in the 1990s.

“A lot of times we put bighorn sheep in these areas but they’re really susceptible to disease,” DWR wildlife biologist Chad Wilson said. “This is an area where we thought the bighorns aren’t going to make it. (The mountain goat) kind of fills that void that the bighorn sheep left.”

Since the first goats arrived on Willard Peak, the population has boomed. Biologists are trying to keep the population in the area at around 160 animals, but the latest estimate pegs the population at around 240, according to Wilson.

With extra animals in the area, biologists have several options for bringing the population back down. By relocating the mountain goats, they can help establish other herds around the state.

After a captured animal is attached to the helicopter, the flight crew brings the bag of mountain goat down to a temporary work station in the Cutler Flats Campground. Under the guidance of multiple biologists and DWR’s state wildlife veterinarian, crews give a quick medical exam to every animal. The goats aren’t anesthetized, but their eyes are covered and two volunteers maintain a steady cover of ice and water to keep the animals from getting stressed and overheating.

In a matter of minutes, each goat is weighed, measured, and fitted with a radio collar and an ear tag. Blood and bacteria samples are collected and vaccines are given. All of the work is performed in near silence before the goat is untied and moved into an animal trailer.

The first 20 goats captured are bound for Mount Dutton in southern Utah.

“It has not had mountain goats historically,” Josh Pollock said, “but the terrain and the habitat is there for the mountain goats.”

Pollock is a wildlife biologist with DWR in the Southern Region where Mount Dutton is located. Recently, mountain goats began moving over on their own from the nearby Tushar Mountains.

“We decided to augment those that had moved over with these from up here,” Pollock said.

In order to quickly build a population, the transplant crew is focusing on female goats and young kids. The gender and age focus will also slow the growth of the Willard Peak herds.

Even as biologists remove some of the goats, the population continues to expand. Last winter, mountain goats from Willard Peak began showing up near the edge of Ogden City, near Ogden Canyon.

“I’m guessing we have about 30 goats around Snowbasin,” Wilson said. “We’ve even had sightings south of I-84.”

The capture crew had to stop as winds picked up, but they returned later to start moving mountain goats again.

“They seem to be more majestic from where they’re at,” Pollock said. “To be able to put your hands on one, to help them out, to help further their population, it’s really cool.”

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Information from: Standard-Examiner, https://www.standard.net


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