Mountain goats on decline, lions steady | NevadaAppeal.com

Mountain goats on decline, lions steady

Courtesy Nevada Department of Wildlife
Mountain lion tags provide a challenging task for hunters in Nevada.
LVN File Photo |

In 2012, there were four resident mountain goat tags, one PIW tag, and one nonresident tag. Hunter success was 100 percent.

Five billies and one nanny were harvested. This was the lowest tag number and harvest since 1997, the second season following the major pneumonia event that affected both mountain goats and bighorn sheep in the Ruby Mountains. With only one nanny harvested this past year, this is the lowest percent of female mountain goat harvest since 2006.

The average age of this small number of harvested goats was 5.5 years in Unit 101, 4.7 in Unit 102, and 6 in Unit 103; all equal or above their unit’s 5-year and long-term averages. Horn length was below the long-term average in Units 101 and 102 while the single billy from Unit 103 had exceptional horn length at 9 7/8 inches.

Helicopter surveys were conducted in January 2013 with 231 mountain goats observed among the 3 units, a sample size increase of 33 percent from 2012. In Unit 101, no kids were observed from the large sample of 104 goats compared to only five kids:100 adults in 2012.

In Unit 102, 114 adults and 23 kids were observed for a 20 kids:100 adults ratio, well above last year’s ratio of 7 kids:100 adults. Even better kid recruitment was documented in the Pearl Peak area of Unit 103 with 5 kids and 10 adults observed on survey.

It is alarming and perplexing that the East Humboldt Range mountain goat herd the first 2 years after the 2009-2010 pneumonia event showed kid recruitment, albeit lower than average. But in the third and fourth years post-event, essentially no kid recruitment was documented.

As with all serious pneumonia events, NDOW always assumes the worst the first few years post-event regarding adult survival. With improved surveys in 2013 and more years removed from the event, it seems only limited adult mountain goat mortality occurred during the 2009-2010 event.

As part of a multi-year recruitment monitoring and disease surveillance project, 17 mountain goats were captured, collared and sampled in January 2013. NDOW hopes to learn more of the causative agents and extent of the recruitment depression in our mountain goat herds and how it may be linked or not with other sympatric bovines in the East Humboldt Range and Ruby Mountains

MOUNTAIN LION

The 2012 cougar hunting season (1 March 2012 – 28 February 2013) resulted in an overall mortality of 227 Nevada lions. Sport hunter harvest accounted for 182 lions or 80 percent of the total lions killed.

The 5- and 10-year average for statewide sport harvest of lions was 137 and 136, respectively. The 2012 sport harvest represented a 75 percent increase over the 2011 sport harvest (compared to a 29.5 percent decrease in 2011 from 2010). Favorable late winter and early spring snow conditions accounted for much of the increase in lion harvest over 2011.

Cougars removed for the protection of livestock or human safety (depredation) decreased by 19 from 40 in 2011 to 21 in 2012. Depredating lions represented 9 percent of the overall 2012 mortalities.

During 2012, 15 lions were killed as part of the Predation Management Program, compared to 16 in 2011 and accounted for 7 percent of the overall 2012 mortalities. Taken together, depredation and predation management mortalities accounted for 16 percent and 32 percent of total cougar mortalities in 2012 and 2011, respectively. During 2012, one lion may have been killed illegally and the remaining eight lions (4 percent) were killed incidentally, either through accidental non-target trap capture in bobcat/coyote traps, vehicle collisions or died of undetermined natural causes.

Sport harvested cougars represented 36 percent of the statewide harvest limit of 500 mountain lions for 2012, up from 21 percent in 2011. Total cougar mortality represented 45 percent of the statewide harvest limit of 500 mountain lions for 2012, up from 35 percent in 2011.

Eastern, Western and Southern Regions accounted for 59 percent, 26 percent and 15 percent of the total statewide cougar mortality, respectively in 2012 as compared to 43 percent, 40 percent and 17 percent in 2011. Females accounted for 49 percent of the total mortality in 2012, up from 47 percent in 2011. Younger age-class cougars (3 and younger) accounted for 45 percent of the total mortality in 2012, down from 50 percent in 2011.

More than 66 percent of successful lion hunters in 2012 were Nevada residents. More than 18 percent of successful out-of-state hunters came from eight foreign countries in 2012, some as distant as Russia, Norway and the Philippines. Remaining out-of state lion hunters came from 21 different states.