The roughly 30 mountain goats inhabiting Cathedral Provincial Park in the Similkameen have come under the spotlight over concern about potential human-wildlife conflict.
According to a Parks BC media release, for the last five to seven years, the goats have been drawn to the salt found in urine and sweaty clothing from hikers, making the backcountry campground of Quiniscoe Lake an easy mineral lick for the mountain goats searching for essential nutrients.
Kirk Safford, a conservation specialist with BC Parks, said not much is known about the wild goats in the area. But scientists and Lower Similkameen Indian Band technicians are hoping to change this. In late June and early July, they captured and collared 10 goats.
The collars, which last three to four years, send out a GPS signal every six hours. Researchers can record where the goats are wandering, the release reads. The goal is to learn more about the goats’ habitat use and identify winter range to help address management issues in the park.
Researchers have already seen one goat move 10 kilometres within 12 hours, then stay in the same area for a week. It then moved another 12 kilometres in 24 hours, catching Safford off guard.
“It’s very exciting. We’re seeing movements that we had no idea about,” Safford said in the release.
The collars will also show the goats’ activity around the campground, allowing park staff to monitor the animals that are aggressive towards people.
“Goats exert dominance over each other around mineral licks because it’s such a highly sought-after resource. You put people into that mix in a campground and it poses a risk to both people and the animals. We want to avoid that kind of conflict in a park.”
So far, there has not been any reported incidents of goats being aggressive towards people in Cathedral Park. But some have exerted their dominance by refusing to move off trails.
According to Safford, the best way to prevent goats from coming into the campground is to remove attractants by having park visitors use pit toilets and store sweaty clothing inside tents.
“In a park setting, we want wildlife to be as natural as possible and behave naturally. As long as the salt is there, they will come back.”
The Cathedral Mountain Goat Project is funded through the BC Parks Licence Plate Program, the release says. So far, more than 150,000 specialty licence plates have been sold, generating more than $4.1 million for programs and projects related to conservation, community engagement and Indigenous relations.
This year, approximately $400,000 from the program is going towards wildlife inventory and projects for managing human-wildlife interactions. An inventory of mountain goats is also taking place in Kwadacha Wilderness Provincial Park, located approximately 160 kilometres southwest of Fort Nelson.
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