The latest effort to restore charismatic megafauna populations: the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department plansto re-introduce mountain goats to the rocky outcroppings of the Columbia River Gorge. The goats will be relocated from northeastern Oregon. But why?
If Oregon needs spare mountain goats, they only need look to their northern neighbor. Olympic National Park, in Washington, has plenty–roughly 300. But the goats there are not actually native to the Olympics (though they are native to Washington’s Cascade Mountains). They were brought in the 1920s as an ill-advised tourist-draw and they have since made themselves quite comfortable. Too comfortable, in fact: they have an unfortunate predilection for chomping away on rare plants that live in the Olympic Mountains but nowhere else on earth.
So if Oregon is trying to boost its goat population and Washington has an over-population problem… Uh, am I missing something here? Today’s newspaper articles don’t even mention the possibility of the obvious common interest.
Some background: Mountain goats disappeared from Oregon in the 19th century for reasons that are not entirely clear. But since 1950, wildlife managers have made about a dozen re-introductions and Oregon’s goat population now numbers around 450. There is some debate about whether mountain goats inhabited the gorge before European contact; but the journals of Lewis and Clark suggest that "great numbers" were present there.