BEND, Ore. (AP) — The mountain goat population appears to be growing on Central Oregon's Mount Jefferson, two years after Oregon and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs returned the high-climbing animals to the peak.
A second release this summer helped increase the number of Rocky Mountain goats on and around the 10,495-foot volcano.
The Bend Bulletin reports the goats seem to be successfully breeding and caring for new young.
"That population definitely increased considerably this last year," said Steven George, district wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
George said nanny goats typically produce twins when they are receiving good nutrients and are generally healthy, and aerial surveys show several pairs of kids.
Half of the mountain is on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and the other half lies within the Willamette National Forest.
The ODFW and the tribes in July 2010 released 45 mountain goats onto a flank of Mount Jefferson in a remote section of the 640,000-acre reservation. In July, the state agency and the tribes released an additional 24 goats, said Doug Calvin, program manager for wildlife, parks and enforcement with the tribes.
Three mountain goats died shortly after the 2010 release — two in falls and one possibly in a cougar attack. Calvin said he believes none of the goats released this year have died.
There are no plans for more releases, he said. "We've got a pretty good start on the population," Calvin said.
Overhunting wiped out the goats in the 1850s. They were prized for their horns and hide but not their meat.
Oregon began a program to reintroduce mountain goats in the Wallowa Mountains in Eastern Oregon, starting with five goats from northern Washington.
Eastern Oregon now boasts a strong mountain goat population, with about half of the 800 mountain goats statewide found in the Elkhorn Mountains near Baker City. ODFW and the tribes plucked goats from the Elkhorns for release onto Mount Jefferson.
A separate program 10 years ago succeeded in reintroducing bighorn sheep to the Mutton Mountains.
If the mountain goats continue to thrive on Mount Jefferson, Calvin said the tribes may eventually hunt the animals.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.