“The mountain goats are not native to this landscape. Mountain goats, they eat the vegetation in these alpine areas of the La Sal Mountains. They dig up the plants and then they dig into the soil, creating places where they can lay.” –Coles-Ritchie of the non-profit group Grand Canyon Trust
They are no doubt majestic but are mountain goats a threat to vegetation endemic to Utah’s high country? The plant in question is the La Sal daisy can only be found in their namesake home, the La Sal Mountains. FOX13 reports bighorn sheep were spotted in the La Sals as recently as 1954 and since the wild sheep are susceptible to disease, the state looked for a similar animal. In 2013, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources captured mountain goats in the Tushar Mountains near the town of Beaver and flew the goats to the La Sals to start a breeding population. Currently the La Sals currently have between 85 and 100 goats with plans to grow the herd to 200.
Groups concerned with the health of the La Sal daisy sued the U.S. Forest Service arguing the agency wasn’t managing the habitat. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit because a joint study between the Forest Service and the state to determine what impact the mountain goats were having had not yet been completed.
The study is now mostly complete but the results have not been published. Early results conclude that under certain circumstances in certain areas, mountain goats may have an impact on some of these plants but there’s other factors impacting the plants including drought.
Peck and the Forest Service both say most of that study is complete. The results have not yet been published. Utah is considering introducing mountain goats into a new spot in northern Utah, depending on what sensitive plants they find in the site candidate – Logan Canyon.
“We definitely want to protect this very fragile habitat because it is very fragile up here. So, it does concern me a little bit about the goats. They’re awesome to see, but at the same time, we definitely want to protect our very fragile ecosystem up here.” –Riley Peck, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Coordinator