Volunteers with the Friends of Lardeau River set up the diversionary salt licks on April 18. Photo submitted

Needs more salt: Kootenay goats lured away from B.C. highways with diversionary licks

It’s hoped the unique solution protects local herds

The goat problem vexed Leonard Sielecki for over a decade.

Every spring, goats suffering from mineral deficiency following the long winter trek down mountains in search of salt. They find it on B.C. highways, which either have salt left over from icy conditions or may draw the animals in with the road’s brine residue.

Sielecki, who manages the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s wildlife program, is an expert on vehicle collision mitigation. But luring goats away from the roads proved more difficult than he expected, at least until he realized he should just give the animals what they wanted.

“It sounds very simple now but for some reason it took a lot of thinking to come up with that,” he said.

Sielecki’s not kidding. He’d previously tried a number of deterrents, such as mixing cayenne pepper into salt (which worked on goats and, unexpectedly, also on allergic drivers) or magnesium chloride (which not only made the goats sick but also damaged vehicles and cars).

He even tried placing satchels of dog fur from wolf-like species such as huskies and malamutes along the highway. That also backfired. “If you’re ever going to do an experiment like that, make sure you freeze all the boxes because you’ll get fleas,” he said.

Finally, after at least one goat was killed last summer on Highway 31 between the small West Kootenay towns of Lardeau and Argenta, Sielecki decided to try another tact.

Sielecki contacted Nelson-based wildlife research biologist Kim Poole, who partnered with the Friends of Lardeau River to haul approximately 125 kilograms of livestock salt up the hill from the highway late last summer. They set up small piles and hoped it would distract the goats from the nearby highway.

“I put some cameras up and if you can believe it, within 55 minutes of us leaving the goats were on the lick site,” said Poole. “So in the short term it looked really promising.”

Mountain goats have long been a fixture on the Lardeau Bluffs.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development estimates the herd’s population is 50, but Poole said he’s had locals tell him it is more likely 25 to 30. The goats are also protected from hunting after a ban was placed on the bluffs in 2004.

Protecting the goats, Poole said, is a local prerogative.

“It’s not like you have several hundred goats running around in that area and dropping one or two to a vehicle isn’t such a bad thing,” he said. “It’s just not a lot of goats. You don’t want to lose too many of them.”

Last year the salt licks were placed too late in the season to judge how successful they were. This year, Poole and nine volunteers returned on April 18 with 175 kilos of salt that were placed in two different locations about 150 metres from the highway. The transportation ministry has purchased approximately 400 kilos of salt, which Poole said he’ll use to replenish the licks every four-to-six weeks.

The salt is placed in spread-out piles to simulate natural licks. Sielecki said he opted against using blocks to avoid the possibility of animals sharing diseases.

It’s still too early to know if the project is a success, but Lardeau isn’t the only community trying out the licks. Three sites have also been added in the East Kootenay and Sielecki has plans for two more.

Although the salt can keep drivers safe from collisions, Sielecki said protecting animals is his priority. He recalled meeting a woman in Kaslo and mentioning the Lardeau goats.

“She knew the herd. That was really neat because I’m trying to help a herd she knows locally. It’s that attachment people have, that love people have for the wildlife of our province.”



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

This group hauled 150 kilograms of salt up a steep hill in order to protect the local goat herd. Photo submitted

These goats were caught on video taking advantage of a salt lick near Lardeau meant to divert them from the nearby highway. Screenshot courtesy Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

Just Posted

WATCH: MBSS students march for climate action

Students conduct peaceful protest in conjunction with worldwide Fridays For Future movement

PHOTO: Goldsbury opens Liberal campaign office in Cranbrook

Robin Goldsbury, the Liberal Party candidate for Kootenay-Columbia, opened her campaign office… Continue reading

PHOTO: Stetski opens NDP campaign office in Cranbrook

Kootenay-Columbia NDP candidate Wayne Stetski was joined by supporters while opening his… Continue reading

Student activists, City talk climate change

Kevin Marshall, Energy Manager with the City of Cranbrook, met organizers of… Continue reading

VIDEO: Grizzly bears fight along northern B.C. highway in rare footage

Cari McGillivray posted the head-turning video, shot near Stewart, B.C., to social media

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for change

Man from Winnipeg who was hiking alone found dead in Banff National Park

RCMP say the man was hiking alone on Mount Temple Thursday

Takaya, B.C.’s intriguing lone wolf, seen eating seal and howling away on Discovery Island

Fun facts about Takaya the wolf, like his a 36-hour tour around Chatham, Discovery Islands

Resident finds loaded shotgun inside a duffle bag in Kelowna alleyway

RCMP seized a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition, clothing and other items

Graffiti, calls and Snapchat: RCMP probe string of threats targeting Kamloops schools

There have been nine different threats made to four different schools in the city

Most Read