Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance Survey - Henrys Mountains 2022

In mid July, Shaun and Lila (8 years old) volunteered with the Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance to survey mountain goats in the Henrys Mountains of Soutwest Montana.

RMGA surveys mountain goats every year in partnership with state agencies like Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.  Boots on the ground surveys are crucial to gathering herd data as mountain goats are especially sensitive to counts conducted by aircraft.  These counts help local biologists monitor herd health and set appropriate hunting quotas.  Want to help out?  Check the RMGA webpage to see how you can participate in future surveys!  Here is a quick recap of our trip.

Before the survey began, all volunteers assembled at Stone Glacier headquarters in Bozeman for orientation and some pizza.  The biologist and RMGA coordinator assigned everyone a survey district and gave instructions on how to conduct the count.  All participants watched a video which gave several ways to tell nannies and billies apart.  Lila was the youngest survey member, so we were assigned an area that could be accessed by trail.

Stone Glacier HQ Bozeman

Orientation at Stone Glacier HQ in Bozeman. We learned how to tell nannies and billies apart and got assigned a survey area.

After orientation, we drove to the trailhead and camped in the back of the truck. The following day, we chowed down on some Alpen Fuel granola and hiked 5.5 miles to Sheep Lake, located in a high alpine basin at 9,000 feet.  Lila told a few hours of stories to help keep us motivated during the long hike.  Her favorite topic?  Minecraft of course!

RMGA Survey

Lila on her first big backpacking trip.  The alpine basin in the background holds Sheep Lake, our destination.

Once camp was set up, we found a good glassing spot on the shoreline and began looking for animals.  It didn't take long to spot 18 goats, right at the top of a 10,600 peak above the lake!  The group was a mix of adults, yearlings, and 3 small kids.  We were able to watch them for about 20 minutes before they fed over the top of the peak and out of sight.

RMGA Survey

Mountain goats!  We saw 18 goats in total on the survey day, including 3 small kids and a few yearlings.  The animals were feeding around the top of a 10,600 peak.

After spotting the first group, we set off for another vantage point to survey the remainder of our district.  We dodged a few rain showers and didn't end up spotting any more animals that night.

 Maven Optics

Putting our Maven Optics to work.

Early the next morning, we rolled out of our sleeping bags and heated some water for breakfast.  We glassed during breakfast and found another 19 goats, this time feeding halfway up the big peak near camp.  This group again had 3 kids, so we guessed it was the same group from the previous day.  After watching them for a while, we broke down camp and began the 5.5 mile journey back to the truck.

RMGA Survey

We made it out!  Lila was able to hike 11 miles in two days with a pack.  Kids are more capable than we give them credit for!

Opportunities like this are open to anyone who would like to participate!  In fact, we could have used a few additional sets of eyes on this trip.  We barely had enough participants to cover all of the districts.  Come join RMGA on one of their next surveys!  You just might get a free Alpen Fuel meal.  Oh, you might see some goats as well!

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