LIVINGSTON – One of Montana’s most iconic game species fails from conservation neglect, but new efforts by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks look to improve the management of Montana s mountain goats.

Wildlife researchers recently captured mountain goats in southwest Montana to look at herd health. The new efforts are a first step in trying to learn more about Montana’s least studied and understood big game animal.

“Goats as a species are an iconic species that Fish, Wildlife and Parks has always been managing. But it is like we really don’t know, we don’t know what to look for or at, is it habitat, or whether it’s diseases or some other factor,” said FWP’s John Vore.

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One of the big questions is the difference between Montana’s native mountain goat herds and the introduced ones. Beginning in the 1940s, Montana wildlife managers transplanted mountain goats to start herds in new ranges.

However, today these introduced herds are doing well and the native mountain goat herds have declined dramatically.

“It’s almost like we are dealing with two species here, we have introduced goats, we’ve got native goats and they aren’t the same in terms of how the populations are performing and actually the population biology. And so that difference at a very basic level is native goats aren’t doing well; introduced goats are doing quite well,” biologist and author Bruce Smith said.

While there are many theories on why native herds are not doing well, the main emphasis from Smith and other goat advocates is to begin the discussion on this iconic alpine species.

“What we want to do is be proactive here and do what we need to both in terms of understanding, so the research side, as well as fine-tuning the management to conserve and restore goats,” Smith said.

Along with the herd health research, FWP has also formed a team to look into improving Montana’s mountain goat management in the future. State wildlife managers say they plan to continue mountain goat herd health monitoring.

Reporting by Winston Greeley fpr Montana FWP