People in Haines will get their first look at a mountain goat study that could affect helicopter skiing regulations.
Residents in the Upper Lynn Canal have wondered for years how helicopter skiing might impact mountain goat populations. But there hasn’t been much reliable information about whether heliskiing actually overlaps with mountain goat habitat.
So, the State Department of Fish and Game started a study to get just that kind of data four years ago.
Kevin White is a wildlife research biologist with Fish and Game.
“One of the main goals of our project is to collect field data to provide definitive information about where mountain goats are wintering so those questions can be resolved and those decisions can be made in a way that’s based on science,” White said.
The researchers put GPS-linked collars on about 50 goats and they’re keeping track of where the animals move in the summer and winter.
White says there’s some interesting variation in the goat populations that has to do with different kinds of snowfall throughout the Chilkat Valley.
Mountain goats who live near the coasts tend to winter at a lower elevation.
“And when you get further up near the border, where you have a dryer, colder more windblown type of snow pack, mountain goats will actually winter at high elevations,” White said.
So, in the places where goats winter at low elevations, there’s not much possibility for heliskiing overlap. In the places where they spend winter higher up in the mountains, there’s more chance of overlap.
“This information will be very useful in helping identify where critical winter habitats are and how helicopter skiing will overlap with those areas,” White said.
The study isn’t over yet. It’ll last at least a couple more years. But now the researchers have collected enough information to paint a picture of what areas might need extra heliskiiing regulation.
White says they won’t be giving any specific recommendations about helicopter skiing policy yet. But that is the ultimate goal of the study.
The presentation from White and Area Management Biologist Stephanie Sell is Monday at 7 p.m. in the Chilkat Center lobby.
White says he plans to give presentations in Haines on the mountain goat research once a year until the conclusion of the study.