Submitted by Wildsight Invermere

Mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) are an iconic species of B.C. that both represent and require wilderness. Approximately half of the world’s population resides within our province, inhabiting the craggy slopes of the Rockies and Purcells. Eking out an existence at a higher and steeper elevation than any other hoofed animal in North America, mountain goats are the planet’s original – and arguably most accomplished – alpinists.

In our own corner of the province, we are fortunate enough to play host to a unique lower-elevation herd, the Toby Canyon mountain goats.

After a long Canadian winter, even the hardiest of creatures require sustenance and, come spring, mountain goats will travel many miles in search of minerals to replenish what they’ve lost during the coldest months of the year. The Toby Canyon, which boasts a prominent mineral lick, is therefore something of a mecca for these mountain pilgrims, and each year, a herd of goats makes the journey to the porous cliffsides overlooking Toby Creek.

Unfortunately, the pilgrimage of the Toby Canyon goat herd may be coming to an end. Logging by Canfor and BC Timber Sales, planned in the Kreuter Creek area, will threaten the wildlife corridor to the lick. Mountain goats — a wary species, vulnerable to even the slightest disturbance — are unlikely to tolerate the profound disturbance caused by a cut block.

Over the years, the onslaught of ever-increasing recreational pressure, as well as the lack of respect for and enforcement of closures in the area, has already meant that the Toby Canyon goat herd – once 80 strong – has dwindled to an estimated 16. Thus, while logging is by no means the only threat to the mountain goats, it could very well be the proverbial nail in the coffin.

After all, a cut block on a mountain top that affords superb vistas, in addition to the road and bridge infrastructure required for logging equipment, will provide largely uninhibited access and establish a pattern of use by various groups that is unlikely to stop even after Canfor closes the area following project completion. Even in the unlikely case that it does stop, it would be a small miracle if the herd returned to the area following such intense disruption.

The Toby Canyon herd is far from alone in its plight. Recent census data for mountain goats in the region is grim, showing a 38 per cent population reduction in less than 20 years. The silver lining is that we did see localized population increases in protected areas and areas without roads. Such a finding has clear and direct implications for the future of the Toby Canyon mountain goats – if we value the herd and want them to remain, then forestry practices must change.

We never thought that we would lose the mountain caribou in the Purcells, and now they’re gone. The Toby Canyon mountain goats may ‘just’ be one herd, but that’s how it so often begins – and their departure from the Canyon and our region could, ultimately, spell the extirpation of the species from our area.

We’re not ready to call it quits, however. On April 22 at 7 p.m., learn more about these iconic mountain creatures. We’re bringing together three panelists — Douglas Chadwick, renowned wildlife biologist, photographer, National Geographic journalist and author of A Beast the Color of Winter; John Bergenske, Wildsight’s Conservation Director; and John Zehnder, local rancher and mountain goat advocate — for a webinar exploring the conservations strategies that may yet help us to safeguard a future for the planet’s original alpinist.

To register for the webinar, visit: With questions, please email Kat Graves at