Deep in Idaho’s backcountry lives a population of mountain goats shrouded in mystery. This once hunted, native pocket of goats was first surveyed in 1990 and most recently in 2003. The thirteen-year hiatus of data left McCall’s Regional Wildlife Biologist, Nathan Borg, with several unanswered questions. After reaching out to the Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance for volunteer help in early 2016, a backcountry project was scheduled for late July.
Goat Alliance volunteers once again rallied around the cause, this time in the beautiful Frank Church Wilderness near Yellow Pine, Idaho. We laced up our boots, loaded our packs and hit the trails in pursuit of the unknown. As the summer sun graced us with beautiful weather, we quickly found ourselves off trail, climbing towards the alpine. The remote and intimidating country welcomed us with fresh air and stunning views.
Soon after breaking into goat habitat, we had our first band of three billies in our sights. After completing a goat sighting data sheet and documenting the animals exact location, we continued to climb to an alpine bench that what would become our home for the weekend. The day ended with several more hours of fruitless searching for the white ungulates. A world-class sunset was complimented by Mountain House dinners and sore legs after the day’s 3,000 foot vertical gain.
Early sunday morning found the teams of volunteers hiking into even more remote haunts of goat habitat, unchecked the previous day. As we summited the highest peak of a chain of peaks dubbed The Pinnacles, mountain goats began to come out of the rock-work. Multiple family bands as well as solo billies were documented as the day unfolded. Nannies, yearlings and kids alike were all found in good numbers and good health. Spirits were high as the count continued to rise.
By the end of the weekend, Goat Alliance volunteers had documented 37 native mountain goats. This successful ground-based survey was the first step towards allocating state funds towards additional aerial surveys and the hopeful reopening of hunting opportunities in this amazingly beautiful place.
The Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance would like to thank all the members and volunteers who donated their time and boot leather to this vital project as well as Regional Wildlife Biologist, Nathan Borg, for his proactive and optimistic outlook and management of some of Idaho’s native mountain goat populations. We look forward to continuing to assist Nathan with his ongoing research.