Learning more about Glacier Park's iconic goats

Jun 5, 2014

Observing mountain goats at the Hidden Lake Overlook near Logan Pass.
Credit National Park Service

Visitors to Glacier Park’s Logan Pass have likely seen and perhaps been followed by the Parks iconic mountain goats. This summer you might notice something a little different, goats with radio collars. Natural Resources Program Manager Mark Biel with the Park says researchers are looking to find out where the goats go in the fall and winter, if the goats that hang at Logan Pass are the same few goats, or several different herds, and who’s driving the human-goat interactions.

“We’ve heard stories of people being followed into the trees, by a goat, waiting for them to… finish their business, and goats licking and chewing on people’s shirts or sweaty backpacks, just to get the salt,” Biel said.

He said there are also concerns about the safety and welfare of both the goats, and the Park visitors.

“Animals that get used to human food tend to lose their natural ability to forage, or willingness to forage for natural foods because they become reliant on those human foods. Anytime you have wild animals and humans together, both tend to act unpredictably at times,” Biel said.

This three year study is part of the Going-to-the-Sun-Road-Corridor Management planning effort which identified human-wildlife interactions as an issue of concern. Federal Highway dollars allocated through the management plan are covering the costs of the three-year-goat study. Researchers will also be studying bighorn sheep at the same time with observational, temporary marking, and messaging techniques.

Biel said last year they were able to collar six goats, the ultimate goal is 25. The Park is using GPS and VHF radio collars to collect location data. It’s working in partnership with the University of Montana and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.