Biologists from the state and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation have reinvigorated a herd of Rocky Mountain goats on Mount Jefferson, the inaugural site for goat reintroduction in the Central Oregon Cascades.
Two dozen goats captured last week in the Elkhorn Mountains in Baker County were released on tribal lands at the base of Mount Jefferson, joining at least 40 others that were either released there two years ago or are offspring from that original release.
This "secondary release" is designed to invigorate an already productive herd, says Steve George, an ODFW district wildlife biologist working on the project.
"We'd like to see a good, sustainable population and, of course, they'll tell us what that is," George says.
The released animals are expected to find more than fertile habitat. George says earlier surveys showed plenty of kids in the crowds, including two nannies with twins.
"In goat populations, that's a real indicator that production is pretty high," George says.
The nucleus of the herd remains on Mount Jefferson, but some are starting to disperse, and biologists expect to see them on nearby peaks such as Three-Fingered Jack and Olallie Butte. By doing so, they will move onto public lands where they will be more likely to be seen by Oregonians, says ODFW Wildlife Division spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy.
Fourteen of the goats have GPS or radio transmitters so wildlife managers can track them.
Rocky Mountain goats were extirpated from Oregon before or during European settlement in the late 19th century. Reintroduction of the species began in 1950, and last week's release was the 20th in 62 years.
Rocky Mountain goats are the rarest game animal hunted in the state, and only 11 tags are available for the 2012 season. All controlled Rocky Mountain goat tags are "once in a lifetime," so once a hunter draws the tag, he or she may never draw it again.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.