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US Fish & Wildlife Service Journal

KODIAK: Refuge Completes First Season of Mountain Goat Research

Region 7, September 7, 2011
Mountain goat nanny and kid, Kodiak Island, Alaska.
Mountain goat nanny and kid, Kodiak Island, Alaska. - Photo Credit: n/a
Mountain goat research study sites (shown in red) on Kodiak Island, Alaska.  Study sites were selected based on the duration of mountain goat occupancy.
Mountain goat research study sites (shown in red) on Kodiak Island, Alaska. Study sites were selected based on the duration of mountain goat occupancy. - Photo Credit: n/a
Volunteer research assistant Ross Dorendorf surveying alpine vegetation, Kodiak, Alaska.
Volunteer research assistant Ross Dorendorf surveying alpine vegetation, Kodiak, Alaska. - Photo Credit: n/a

Biologists from the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge initiated a new field research project this summer aimed at quantifying mountain goat diets and feeding site selection on Kodiak Island, Alaska. Although mountain goats on Kodiak are a popular game species, they are also not native to the island. The work completed this summer is a part of a larger project focused on maintaining viable hunter harvests of mountain goats while avoiding potential negative impacts from non-native mountain goats to alpine flora and fauna.

Eighteen mountain goats were introduced to the Hidden Basin region of Kodiak in 1952, and since then, their population has grown dramatically in size and range. Although hunted since 1968, Kodiak’s mountain goat population grew to approximately 1,000 animals by 1999. Currently, mountain goats number over 2,500 and are widely distributed across most available habitats on the island. With draw and registration hunts available, and trophy animals being harvested, it has never been better time to be a goat hunter on Kodiak Island.

Research this summer was conducted at three study sites on Kodiak, which were selected based on the duration of mountain goat occupancy. Researchers visited each study site twice over the summer, where they collected mountain goat pellets for dietary analysis and surveyed alpine vegetation. Conducting field research in remote areas of Kodiak presented substantial logistical challenges, including inclement weather, thick vegetation, and steep terrain. Despite these obstacles, the research team was able to spend 50 days in the field, completing more than 300 vegetation transects and collecting over 200 mountain goat fecal samples. Researchers hope to gain a better understanding of mountain goat feeding site selection by comparing the diversity and abundances of vegetation at feeding sites versus randomly selected alpine locations. Fecal samples will be sent to a lab at Washington State University to determine the composition of plants in their diet.

The Kodiak Refuge hopes to build upon the work completed this summer. Future plans include possibly deploying GPS collars on mountain goats to better understand movements, population dynamics, and other aspects of their life history. 

Contact Info: McCrea Cobb, 907-487-0246, mccrea_cobb@fws.gov