See mountain goats at two free upcoming events
If want to see mountain goats in the wild, here's your chance.
Rock Creek Viewing Event (Duchesne County)
The first free event will take place on Saturday, April 6 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in an area called Rock Creek near Mountain Home, Duchesne County. Biologists will be available to answer questions and provide information about mountain goats. Spotting scopes will be provided, but participants should bring their own binoculars if they have them. Attendees should also come prepared with warm clothing, snacks and water because the area is quite remote and services are not available.
DWR biologist Randall Thacker says that you can usually see 10 to 30 mountain goats from Rock Creek Road, which runs through the canyon where the goats spend their winter months.
The Uinta Mountains are the largest contiguous block of mountain goat habitat in Utah, and mountain goat populations in the Uintas are doing well.
"During our trend count in 2017, we counted 733 mountain goats," Thacker said. "When we count, we know we miss some. We estimate that there are almost 1,000 mountain goats across the Uinta Mountains right now. The population is doing great."
Thacker said mountain goats were re-introduced to the Uinta Mountains in 1987 when DWR biologists released seven animals from Lone Peak. In 1988 and 1989, biologists released another 25 goats from Olympic National Park. Between 1992 and 2000, the herd was supplemented by 57 additional animals from two Utah herds. After the releases were over, a total of 89 goats had been released at 12 sites on the mountains.
The mountain goats move around, so biologists will have to wait until the day of the event to determine the exact viewing sites. To find the viewing sites, simply drive up Rock Creek Road until you pass the U.S. Forest Service boundary sign. Once you pass the sign, drive slowly until you see biologists parked along the road.
There is still snow in the area, but Rock Creek Road is plowed and the Stillwater Dam is accessible. However, if it appears the weather will be too severe, the event will be canceled. Call the Vernal DWR office the day before the event to get updates. You can reach the Vernal office at 435-781-9453.
Directions to the Rock Creek EventSee Google Maps for directions to the general viewing area. Registration for this event is requested, but not required. Participants can register online.
Little Cottonwood Canyon Event (Salt Lake County)
The second event will take place on Saturday, April 13 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 4385 Little Cottonwood Canyon Road (at the park-and-ride lot on the north side of the canyon at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon).
Biologists will also be at this event to provide information and to offer spotting scopes and binoculars. Scott Root, DWR regional conservation outreach manager, said the event is a great opportunity for Utahns to see some incredible wildlife along the Wasatch Front.
"I never get tired of the excited faces of people seeing their first mountain goat," Root said. "People are amazed at the acrobatic abilities of the goats and how they keep their footing on steep, rocky ledges. The younger goats are a crowd favorite, especially when they are chasing each other."
Goat populations in the Box Elder and Lone Peak Units increased to a total of approximately 300 animals about 10 years ago. They have since declined, dropping to fewer than 50 animals at one point, according to DWR wildlife biologist Dale Liechty. He said due to limited tracking and the difficulty of doing population counts, it is unclear if there was a true decline in population or if the animals simply relocated. But Liechty said there are roughly 120 animals in the area now.
"Viewing day goat numbers dropped to just a few goats about five years ago, but have slowly grown to about a dozen goats last year," Root said.
Registration for this event is also requested, but not required since it's a free event. Participants can register online.