Mountain goat abundance and population trends in the Olympic Mountains, northwestern Washington, 2016

Open-File Report 2016-1185
Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service
By: , and 


Executive Summary

We estimated abundance and trends of non-native mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) in the Olympic Mountains of northwestern Washington, based on aerial surveys conducted during July 13–24, 2016. The surveys produced the seventh population estimate since the first formal aerial surveys were conducted in 1983. This was the second population estimate since we adjusted survey area boundaries and adopted new estimation procedures in 2011. Before 2011, surveys encompassed all areas free of glacial ice at elevations above 1,520 meters (m), but in 2011 we expanded survey unit boundaries to include suitable mountain goat habitats at elevations between 1,425 and 1,520 m. In 2011, we also began applying a sightability correction model allowing us to estimate undercounting bias associated with aerial surveys and to adjust survey results accordingly. The 2016 surveys were carried out by National Park Service (NPS) personnel in Olympic National Park and by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists in Olympic National Forest and in the southeastern part of Olympic National Park. We surveyed a total of 59 survey units, comprising 55 percent of the 60,218-hectare survey area. We estimated a mountain goat population of 623 ±43 (standard error, SE). Based on this level of estimation uncertainty, the 95-percent confidence interval ranged from 561 to 741 mountain goats at the time of the survey.

We examined the rate of increase of the mountain goat population by comparing the current population estimate to previous estimates from 2004 and 2011. Because aerial survey boundaries changed between 2004 and 2016, we recomputed population estimates for 2011 and 2016 surveys based on the revised survey boundaries as well as the previously defined boundaries so that estimates were directly comparable across years. Additionally, because the Mount Washington survey unit was not surveyed in 2011, we used results from an independent survey of the Mount Washington unit conducted by WDFW biologists in 2012 and combined it with the 2011 survey results to produce a complete survey conducted over 2 years. The revised estimates of mountain goat abundance occurring at elevations above 1,520 m were 230 ±19 (SE) in 2004, 350 ±41 (SE) in 2011, and 584 ±39 (SE) in 2016. The difference between the overall 2016 population estimate (623 ±43 [SE]) and the smaller estimate (584 ±39 [SE]) reflected the number of mountain goats counted in the expanded survey areas added in 2011. Based on comparisons within the standardized survey boundary, the mountain goat population in the Olympic Mountains increased at an average finite rate of 6 percent annually from 2004 to 2011, 11 percent annually from 2011 to 2016, and 8 percent annually over the combined period. We caution that the population may have been underestimated in 2011 because of record heavy snows persisting into the survey season. Therefore, the rate of population increase from 2011 and 2016 may be overestimated. The rate of increase measured over the combined period (2004–16) may be more representative of the recent population growth. We conclude that the abundance of mountain goats has increased for more than a decade, and if the recent average rate of population growth were sustained, the population would increase by 45 percent over the next 5 years.

Suggested Citation

Jenkins, K.J., Happe, P.J., Beime, K.F., and Baccus, W.T., 2016, Mountain goat abundance and population trends in the Olympic Mountains, northwestern Washington, 2016: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016–1185, 21 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Study Area and Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
  • Appendixes 1-3

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Mountain goat abundance and population trends in the Olympic Mountains, northwestern Washington, 2016
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2016-1185
DOI 10.3133/ofr20161185
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
Description iv, 21 p.
Country United States
State Washington
Other Geospatial Olympic Mountains, Olympic National Forest, Olympic National Park
Online Only (Y/N) Y