Wildlife: State to host viewing of Rocky Mountain goats
Humans are not the only climbers fond of Utah's mountains. Mountain goats can be seen perched precariously at numerous high places across the state.
One of the best opportunities to spot the shaggy, nimble-footed white beasts comes each spring, when the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources stages its annual free mountain-goat viewing event at Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Wildlife officials will be on hand April 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the park-and-ride lot at the mouth of the canyon.
Spotting scopes and binoculars will be available to help visitors spy the mountain goats. Most of the action occurs on the canyon's south side, but goats have been spotted on the north side as well.
Opportunities for visitors to learn more about these creatures are also a part of the experience.
Mountain goats have been seen every year since the event started in 1997, according to DWR outreach specialist Scott Root.
"We end up spotting about 15 each year," Root said. "I was up recently and counted a dozen."
The popular event draws 200 to 300 onlookers each year, including some who live within sight of the park-and-ride lot.
"We get a lot of people who did not know we have mountain goats in Utah. We even get some people who live at the mouth of the canyon and say they had no idea there were mountain goats so close," Root said. "Others like to ask, 'Will they still be here tomorrow?' "
A similar viewing event usually takes place each summer on the Tushar Mountains, east of Beaver. But a rough road can pose challenges to reaching a good viewpoint.
Mountain goats are believed to be native to Utah, but there is no evidence they were around when Mormon pioneers arrived.
Wildlife officials released six mountain goats from Washington state in the Lone Peak Wilderness Area on the Wasatch Front in 1967. A series of other releases involving goats from Washington bolstered the Utah population. Eventually, their numbers grew large enough to conduct relocations within the state.
Mountain goats can be seen near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon from November to mid-April. They head for the highest points of the mountains during the warmest months of the year.
There are hunting opportunities for mountain goats in Utah, but the animals' limited numbers make these once-in-a-lifetime events. Hunters who draw goat permits cannot enter another drawing even if they fail to take an animal.
Resident hunting permits for goats cost $408 in 2012. Nonresidents pay $1,513.