Goats don't belong in Olympic National Park

  Dear HCN,

I suspect High Country News will soon have its fill of communications about Olympic Mountain goats, but Mr. Markarian's letter of May 12 should not go unchallenged. All of the evidence he cites in support of the idea that the goats are native to the Olympic Mountains is suspect.

First, the Gilman expedition, which spent very little time in mountain goat habitat, reported sightings of partridge on the same species list with the mountain goat, despite the fact that there are not now, nor have there ever been, partridge on the Olympic Peninsula. This leads me to doubt the reliability of the Gilman report with respect to goats. As for the Seattle Press Expedition, in addition to a goat, they also reported seeing pheasants and chickens, neither of which has ever been native to this area, let alone North America. What's more, they mistook the drumming of grouse for geysers, hence Geyser Valley. Well, I ask you now!

In contrast to the two sources cited above, Lt. Joseph O'Neil, who led the first extensive expedition into the heart of the Olympics and later spent time leading a trail-building and scientific expedition into the high country, failed to report seeing any mountain goats. Chris Morgenroth, who spent more than a quarter of a century exploring and working in the high country, never reported seeing any goats, even though he was a hunter and observer of wildlife.

And finally, E.B. Webster, author of the book King of the Olympics and one of the people who was instrumental in introducing goats to the Olympics in 1925, wrote in his book, "While the fauna of the Olympic Mountains, for some peculiar reason, never included Mountain Goat, it is the intention of the Klahane Club (Olympic Mountaineers), aided by the Forest Service, to introduce the species as soon as it may be possible to secure them." I think the evidence is overwhelmingly against a native population of mountain goats on the Olympic Peninsula.

As to the negative effect of the goats in the park: During my ramblings in the mountains I have talked with a number of old-timers who, without knowing anything about my opinions and without any prompting from me, have remarked about how wonderfully the vegetation has recovered since most of the goats were removed. This is anecdotal evidence, for sure, but more credible than anything Mr. Markarian has to offer and supports the conclusions of the Park Service on the basis of its field studies.

The Park Service's plan to eliminate goats from the park is based on the results of good field research, not fear and paranoia as Mr. Markarian suggests. Why would anyone be paranoid about mountain goats?

Charles D. Louch

Port Angeles, Washington