Because the relatively recent colonization of portions of Yellowstone National Park by introduced mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) from public game lands in Montana raises important policy and management questions for the park, it is necessary to understand the prehistoric and early historical record of mountain goats in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. We reviewed previous paleontological, archeological, and historical studies of goat presence and examined a large body of historical material for evidence of goats. Native mountain goat range most closely approached the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to the west, but no modern authority claims goats were resident in the ecosystem in recent centuries. Historical accounts of goat presence in the region prior to 1882 (and thus prior to any known introduction of goats by Euro-Americans) are limited to one possible sighting by unreliable observers and a few casual mentions of goat presence by people of limited or unknown familiarity with the ecosystem. Other early observers in the region specifically stated that goats were not native. Between 1882 and 1926 other observers and residents agreed that mountain goats were not native to the park, or to the larger area around it. It is impossible to prove absolutely that there were no goats in the ecosystem prior to modern introductions, but historical evidence demonstrates that if present, such goats must have been exceedingly rare and uncharacteristically unsightable. National Park Service policy relating to exotic species developed gradually after the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, moving from a general receptivity to introduction of at least some favored nonnative species to a general prohibition on all such introductions. Current policy, while disapproving of all nonnative species, seems to reserve special efforts at removal of nonnatives for those species that pose the greatest threat to native species and ecosystems. Current policy is not helpful in defining the minimum amount of evidence needed to prove a species was present or absent, or whether or not an introduced nonnative species is causing sufficient harm to justify its removal.
Schullery, Paul and Whittlesey, Lee
"Mountain goats in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosytem: a prehistoric and historical context,"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 61:
3, Article 6.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol61/iss3/6