But the high-altitude animals, first introduced to the park in the 1920s, are now putting plants in danger by "trampling, wallowing and grazing," according to a 1995 Park Service draft environmental impact statement. To save the vegetation, the Park Service chose lethal means - shooting the goats from helicopters - as its preferred alternative (HCN, 5/1/95).
More than a year later, mountain goats are still prowling the Olympic Mountains and the Park Service is feeling the heat. Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks, whose district encompasses the Olympic Peninsula, is pressuring the park to come up with alternatives.
According to a survey commissioned by the Fund for Animals, three out of four Washington residents oppose the shooting of mountain goats. Environmental groups such as the Olympic Park Associates are finding it hard to convince the public that killing mountain goats is in the park's best interest.
"Trying to convey ecosystem functions and why the park environment is being eroded by goat activity in a 30-second sound bite - it doesn't cut it," said the Associates' Payne.
The final environmental impact statement remains delayed, but park officials say they're now leaning toward a costly program to capture and relocate all of the park's estimated 200 to 300 goats.
* Matt Golec