The goats were released Tuesday at the 435-acre Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Pierce County.
Five mountain goat kids, captured this September in Olympic National Park, began exploring their new home Tuesday at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Pierce County.
The goats were among six kids separated or orphaned from their mothers during helicopter capture and relocation operations aimed at removing the species altogether from the park.
Four of the kids will remain at Northwest Trek, according to a news release from the wildlife park. One was taken to Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle last week. Another goat will eventually be sent to a different zoo.
At Northwest Trek, the mountain goat kids have 435 acres of “natural, Northwest forest” to explore, said Marc Heinzman, the park’s zoological curator. They’ll roam that space freely and share it with an adult mountain goat, six moose, 20 bison, 40 elk, 15 bighorn sheep, 13 caribou and about 35 deer.
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The goats’ new enclosure features a 200-foot hill, several lakes, meadows and a marshy area, Heinzman said. The goats are free to forage on whatever grows naturally in the forest, but mostly, they’ll munch on grain-based pellets provided by animal keepers. Visitors to Northwest Trek can take a guided tram tour through the enclosure to see the animals as they roam.
For more than a month, the mountain goats have been living in a barn stall with an outdoor yard as they adjust to their new surroundings and being cared for by humans.
“They’ve adjusted really well. It helps, I think, that these goats came from groups already habituated to humans,” he said. “They were used to being in proximity to people.”
At the barn yard, workers at Northwest Trek had to tightly stretch tarplike material over a chain-link fence to prevent the animals from climbing and jumping over.
“They are so nimble-footed,” Heinzman said. “It’s kind of like baby proofing a house.”
He said the animals often cluster together like a “cute little cotton-ball herd.”
“These goats are really set up to have a great life. They’ll have regular food, regular veterinary care.”
Before capture operations, national park officials estimated that about 700 goats lived on the Olympic Peninsula. The park officials say the goats are non-native and harm plants unique to the peninsula (science that is questioned by some detractors).
Some goats have become habituated, or accustomed to people. A rare, aggressive goat fatally gored a hiker in 2010.
Park officials began operations to remove all mountain goats from the Olympic Peninsula this summer. A helicopter crew captured 115 goats, according to the national park. Most of the goats were taken in refrigerated trucks to the North Cascades, where researchers hope to boost populations.