Biologists collar Baranof goats to track movement

Posted: Tuesday, September 21, 2010

SITKA - State biologists have finished tagging and collaring 12 mountain goats on Baranof Island as part of research into potential effects of expanding the Blue Lake hydroelectric project, which serves Sitka.

The collars will collect location data.

Department of Fish and Game area biologist Phil Mooney said biologists made two trips into the high country to collar the 12 goats, which represent less than 1 percent of 1,300 population.

Mooney and other biologists have been eager to study the Baranof goat population but research for funding was unavailable. Studies for the Blue Lake hydro expansion project opened the door for Fish and Game to join the U.S. Forest Service and the municipality of Sitka in obtaining $35,000 for the equipment, drugs, helicopter flights and staff time needed to start the study.

The cooperative project calls for capturing and tagging another 12 goats to study potential impacts of the Takatz Lake hydro project on the east side of Baranof Island, at an estimated cost of $7,000 per goat.

The 24 research goats represent the minimum level of captures that researchers need for scientific analysis.

Department officials said the investment in these goats over the six-year research project should greatly increase understanding of seasonal movement patterns, winter and summer range use, and kidding and nursery areas.

It's also expected to give wildlife biologists a base number of marked animals for comparisons during aerial surveys to help refine a population size and sustainable hunting harvest level.

Collars on the eight billies and four nannies carry global positioning system gear that will collect location data over four years.

Mooney said hunters should avoid shooting goats with red ear tags and orange collars. The goats carry residual amounts of tranquilizer and collars are marked with a "DO NOT EAT" message.

"This presents a serious health risk for consumption of the meat," Mooney said. The drugs administered are "tough on people, but good on goats."

The goats were tranquilized, tagged and given an antidote that had them on their feet and feeding within four or five minutes, he said.

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