First BC Mountain Goat Workshop

The workshop of this project was initiated by the Peace/Williston Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program and the BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, Biodiversity Branch and aimed to address the current status of mountain goat populations across BC and summarize management recommendations. Five main topics led the workshop. Two focussed on the issues of forestry and aerial transportation impacts to mountain goats and the other three concerned population inventory, habitat characteristics and population management.

Mountain goats need mineral licks in addition to their normal diet to keep the required level of sodium. In spring, mountain goats are exposed to physically demanding adjustments such as lactation or change in diet due to the transition from winter to spring/summer forage. Due to the variation of habitat, lick stations change as well. For easier access, mountain goats use trails to get to the licks. New logging roads may encounter these trails and licks, which makes it easier for hunters to get into goat habitat and, if not clearly regulated, may provoke over-harvest of mountain goats or their displacement. To forestall these scenarios, buffer zones can be established. However, exposing lick areas enhances predatory presence. Even though effects of lick insufficiency have not been confirmed, it is supposed that it may undermine weak individuals’ ability of improving their well-being.

Unlike goats in low-snow areas, which stay on higher elevations during winter, mountain goats in regions with higher precipitation are more likely to relocate to forests in lower areas for forage opportunities. Here again, predation is increased and due to the snow, escape options are limited.

During the workshop, five research issues were addressed including forestry’s effect on licks and winter habitat demands.

Aerial disturbance of mountain goats due to growing helicopter use related to logging and recreational activities shall be documented and flight frequency and distance should be regulated as it may stress the animals, causing an energetic waste. Furthermore, it may affect populations when disturbance causes the displacement of mountain goats. However, these impacts are hardly documented, which means that future research should include these topics, stating both pre- and post-disturbance conditions even though they are difficult to record.

Potential mountain goat habitat may be displayed using GIS by including landscape features such as slopes or the presence of rock outcrops. This may facilitate drawing a connection between tracked animals and their habitat, outlining current relations and future predictions. However, setting up models is difficult and occupies a lot of time. That’s why using already existing models  may receive more funding.

In order to set up a reliable population inventory and management, survey data needs to be gauged. Information provided by the surveys should include populations, age, sex, sightability and survey frequency. Furthermore, it may be useful to group populations into sub-populations, which allows a more detailed understanding.

Goat management planning is important to maintain sustainable populations. That’s why harvest rates from 3-4 per cent should not be exceeded, as mountain goats are known for their low reproductivity. Populations are considered as sustainable if they reach a number of 50 individuals or more, which is the reason why hunting populations below this amount shall be restricted and long-term surveys on these populations should be implemented to record arising population decrease. Male-female ratio should aim for 33/100.

All in all, the Mountain Goat Workshop delivered a broad, yet defined purpose on how to deal with mountain goat management in British Columbia.