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See mountain goats

DWR starts new viewing event in northeastern Utah

MOUNTAIN HOME — When the snow gets deep in the winter, mountain goats along the South Slope of the Uinta Mountains move down onto ridges that are exposed to the sun. The southern sun and steep terrain provide a great wintering area for the goats — and a unique viewing opportunity for people.

PMountain goats will be the stars of a new viewing event at Rock Creek. The event happens Feb. 22.

Mountain goats will be the stars of a new viewing event at Rock Creek. The event happens Feb. 22

Photo by Lynn Chamberlain

On Saturday, Feb. 22, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) will host a Mountain Goat Watch on Rock Creek. The area is northwest of Mountain Home in northeastern Utah.

The free event will run from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Randall Thacker, UDWR biologist, says from Rock Creek Road, you can usually see mountain goats that winter in the canyon. "Keeping the road open to the Stillwater Dam creates a unique viewing opportunity," he says.

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 slowly up Rock Creek Road until you see the biologists.

Spotting scopes will be available so you can get a close-up view of these incredible climbers in their shaggy, white coats. A site with displays and information about mountain goats will also be available. From the site, biologists can direct you to additional viewing areas.

"We'll have binoculars and spotting scopes available for you to use," says Ron Stewart, UDWR outreach manager, "but if you have your own viewing gear, please bring it."

Stewart also encourages you to bring warm clothes and a lunch. "You never know what the weather in the mountains is going to be like," he says. "And the viewing sites are a good distance from most conveniences."

The weather will determine if the event is held. If it looks like the weather will be too severe, the event will be canceled. "So far," Stewart says, "weather forecasts for Feb. 22 look favorable. Please feel free to call our Vernal office on Feb. 21 for an update, though."

You can reach the Vernal office at 435-781-9453.

Directions

To reach the viewing site from U.S. Highway 40, take one of the roads to Altamont/Mountain Home:

  • If you're approaching from the west, turn left (north) onto the road to Mountain Home. This road is about four miles before you reach Altamont.
  • If you're coming from the east, drive through Altamont to reach the Mountain Home Road.

To reach the viewing site, travel north on the Mountain Home Road about 2.8 miles, and turn left at the Mountain Home Store onto Country Route 95, the road to Rock Creek. The turn isn't well marked, but there is a sign for the Miner's Gulch, Yellowpine and Stillwater campgrounds.

Follow Route 95 roughly 20 miles to the viewing area.

"Keep your eyes open as you travel," Stewart says. "It's common to see elk and deer on the way."

Utah's largest herd

The Uinta Mountains have more habitat for mountain goats than any other area in Utah. And goat herds on the mountains are doing great.

Thacker says mountain goats were introduced into the Uinta Mountains in 1987 when the UDWR 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 all of the releases were done, a total of 89 goats had been released at 12 sites on the mountains.

"During our last trend count in 2011," Thacker says, "we counted 858 mountain goats. That shows how good the habitat on the Uinta Mountains is."

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