On August 7th, 2015, RMGA volunteers assembled at the Stone Glacier Backpacks headquarters in Bozeman, Montana. Over 20 volunteers from all over the state gathered for a project briefing with regional biologist, Karen Loveless. The objective of the Crazy Mountains volunteer project was to investigate the mountain goat recruitment rate in the range.
The Crazy mountains of Montana have been called the “Crown Jewel” of mountain goat hunting opportunities in the lower 48. With 85 permits available in the island mountain range in 2014, and 50 permits in 2015, this area is home to more opportunity for sportsman and women than several other states combined. With an estimated population of 350-400 animals, many people have wondered what the reasoning for issuing so many permits has been.
In the late 1950’s and into the early 1960’s the range boasted similar goat numbers to what we have today. The population suffered a massive collapse that closed the area to hunting for 30 years until 1991. The die-off has been shrouded in mystery but mainly attributed to starvation. In an effort to avoid another massive loss of the area’s goats, liberal hunting has been implemented to stabilize the population. With 65-75% of recent year’s tags used on billies, there is concern the heavy hunting has not slowed the population’s growth. If this is the case, alternate stabilization methods may be considered.
Teams of RMGA volunteers blanketed the mountains for what started off as a very rainy weekend. Our volunteers reported over 200 mountain goat sightings over the course of the weekend. After eliminating all duplicate goat counts, the grand total was 126 goats observed, with a ratio of 47 kids per 100 adults, and 56 billies per 100 nannies.
Regional Biologists, Karen Loveless, writes: “With kid numbers this high I think it’s safe to say that kid production is very good this year. I was also really happy with the number of billies observed. This is super helpful information as we head into season setting for the 2016-17 seasons this Fall. Thanks again for all your efforts pulling this together. The volunteer turn-out and effort was awesome! Please send my thanks to all the volunteers for braving the elements and excellent attention to detail on the data sheets.“
RMGA would also like to thank everyone who donated their time and energy into this project. This was our largest Montana conservation project to date. Besides Saturday’s downpour, the project was completed without a hitch, providing management with extremely valuable data. We really enjoyed putting boots on the ground and eyes on the hills with passionate members.