MOUNTAIN HOME, Utah -(Ammoland.com)- With snowpack close to 200 percent of normal this year, it’s taken a little longer for the rocky layer on the South Slope of the Uinta Mountains to reveal itself. But it has, and the white, furry animals that live in its steep terrain are finally visible.
On Saturday, April 15, you can see the animals as the Division of Wildlife Resources hosts a mountain goat watch. The watch will be held at an area called Rock Creek. The area is northwest of Mountain Home in northeastern Utah.
The free event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Randall Thacker, DWR biologist, says from Rock Creek Road, you can usually see 10 to 30 mountain goats wintering in the canyon. “Keeping the road open, to the Stillwater Dam, creates a unique viewing opportunity in the winter,” 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 up Rock Creek Road until you pass the U.S. Forest Service boundary sign. Once you pass the sign, drive slowly until you see biologists parked along the road.
Spotting scopes, equipped with Phone Skope adapters, will be available so you can get a close look at these incredible climbers in their shaggy, wintery, white coats. Biologists will also set up a site that includes displays and information about mountain goats. From the site, biologists can direct you to additional viewing areas.
“Binoculars and spotting scopes will be available for you to use,” says Tonya Kieffer, DWR regional outreach manager, “but if you have your own viewing gear, please bring it.”
Kieffer also encourages you to come prepared: bring warm clothes and snacks.
“Weather in the mountains is unpredictable,” she says. “And the viewing sites are quite a ways from stores and other places that sell food.”
The nearest place to buy food is back in Mountain Home, at the Mountain Home Store.
The weather will determine if the event is held. If it appears the weather will be too severe, the event will have to be canceled.
“Hopefully,” Kieffer says, “the weather will cooperate. For an update, please feel free to call our Vernal office on Friday, April 14.”
You can reach the Vernal office at 435-781-WILD (9453).
1) To reach the viewing site from U.S. Highway 40, take one of the roads from US 40 to Altamont/Mountain Home:
a) If you’re approaching from the west: turn left (north) onto state Route 87 (N. Center Street) in Duchesne. Follow SR 87 north for roughly 15.5 miles and turn left onto the road to Mountain Home (21000 West). This road is about four miles before you reach Altamont.
b) If you’re coming from the east: drive through Roosevelt on U.S. 40 roughly 5 miles and turn right (north) onto Ioka Lane (3000 South; this road is right before US 40 turns south and goes uphill). Ioka Lane is also SR 87, so stay on this road to Altamont, then drive through Altamont to reach the Mountain Home Road, and turn north. This road is roughly 4 miles past Altamont.
2) From the SR 87/Mountain Home Road Junction: travel north on the Mountain Home Road about 2.8 miles, and turn left at the Mountain Home Inn & Store onto Country Route 95. This is the road to Rock Creek. The turn isn't well marked, but a sign for the Miner's Gulch, Yellowpine and Stillwater campgrounds is posted near the turn.
Follow Route 95 roughly 20 miles to the viewing area.
“If you keep your eyes open as you travel,” Kieffer says, “it’s common to see elk, deer and a variety of other wildlife along the way.”
Utah's largest herd
The Uinta Mountains are the largest contiguous block of mountain goat habitat in Utah. And goat herds on the Uintas are doing well.
Thacker says mountain goats were re-introduced to the Uinta Mountains in 1987 when DWR biologists 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 the releases were over, a total of 89 goats had been released at 12 sites on the mountains.
“During our last trend count in 2014,” Thacker says, “we counted 835 mountain goats. That shows how well goats on the Uinta Mountains are doing.”