By Anthony Wright
The mountain goat, a species that is often overlooked because of its “out of sight, out of mind” status, is a high-altitude dweller that perseveres in the harshest of conditions throughout the west and northern territories of Canada. Until recently there hasn’t been a major conservation effort in place to help biologists with education, volunteer counts, and funding endeavors of these fascinating critters. That’s where the Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance (RMGA) steps in - they are an association comprised of 6 board members, five committees, and over 1,000 members, of which, more than 150 are lifetime members.
The RMGA is an hunter-based advocacy organization created in 2011 to increase and enhance the management, range, and populations of Rocky Mountain Goats across North America. They promote educating the public of ongoing projects and petition for the expansion of sustainable hunting opportunities. The group also helps to educate hunters about gender identification and helps provide funding for state/provincial agencies.
I recently had an interview with board member and fellow photographer, Darryn Epp. We chatted over the importance of the alliance and what the future holds for the organization. He explained that they are a very dynamic association and that they help in many ways, which include, but are not limited to:
- Funding for mountain goat research/conservation projects
- Funding for aerial inventory counts and aerial relocation efforts
- Purchase of collars for habitat/range/lambing/predation studies
- Educational awareness
- Gender education for hunters
- Microbiome study for determining habitat condition and usage
- Animal gut health through fecal sampling
They also orchestrate volunteer-based counts throughout Montana, Idaho, Washington, Utah, and South Dakota, and are hoping to expand into British Columbia, Colorado, and additional locations in Washington. During these counts volunteers from near and far meet for a multi-day effort to survey mountain goats.
“Not only are quality optics critical in locating goats during surveys in a multitude of weather/atmospheric conditions, it is even more crucial when discerning the gender and age classifications that are required for these surveys."
Recently I had an opportunity to join in on one of these surveys. The event starts with a barbeque where we gathered around maps, got a brief from local biologists, and told hunting stories over beers. The following days consisted of hiking high and low looking for the elusive species. Once the weekend was complete, we handed off the location and presence data to the biologists to aid in their research and management.
When I asked Darryn how important high-quality glass is for helping with these counts he replied, “Not only are quality optics critical in locating goats during surveys in a multitude of weather/atmospheric conditions, it is even more crucial when discerning the gender and age classifications that are required for these surveys. Details are KEY in providing accurate, quality population information.”
Mountain goats tend to live in some of the most unforgiving terrain which is why optics during these counts can be an absolute game-changer when it comes to just finding these elusive animals, luckily when you have an incredible combo like the 11x45 B.2 binos with the S.1A and S.2 spotters they have no place to hide.
Lastly, I asked Darryn where he sees the somewhat young organization going in the next few years. They plan to charge forward by: continuing to spread the message about the current range status, highlighting successes, addressing concerns as they arise, actively seeking membership growth, generating additional capital to enhance support for research/conservation projects, and pursuing affiliations/partnerships/sponsorships with like-minded entities or corporations to facilitate a larger scope of conservation awareness.
For more information on how to participate on volunteer opportunities head over to goatalliance.org. And be sure to check them out on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date.