Nine somewhat bewildered goats who were too gruff on the wilderness of Olympic National Park got an all-expenses paid trip to southern Utah, compliments of the Park Service's "goatlift."
They are part of an overly abundant herd of 1,000 that is wreaking ecological havoc on the fragile alpine country in Olympic National Park."Goatlift" captures the goats and ships them to areas where herds need to be rebuilt.
Travel arrangements are not first class. Pair by pair Friday and earlier this week, the goats came swooping into the Hurricane Ridge parking lot dangling in bright yellow slings below a helicopter.
The goats are sedated and blindfolded for the helicopter trip to protect both goats and people, but the effect of the drug soon wears off.
"The goats become fully conscious again," said Ranger Douglas Hendrickson. "Some of them are ready to burst out like Superman. But some are docile."
To keep them cold, snow and ice are packed into the crates in which the bearded animals are shipped on a 19-hour truck ride.
"We'll stop and buy ice when the snow melts and dump it in the crates," said Jeff Grandison, a biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "We'll buy up all the cocktail ice between here and Salt Lake City."
A Utah national forest will be the new home to some of the goats, a welcome addition to help restore the area's depleting number.
The goatlift isn't cheap.
It costs about $1,000 to capture and medicate each goat - and Park Service administrators hope to capture about 80 this year, mostly from the northeast section of the park. They're about halfway there.
This is the first year of the three-year capture program. After that the Park Service may shoot goats in areas too steep and dangerous for people and helicopters to work. Their goal is a goat-free park.