By Brett Prettyman
The permit to hunt a Rocky Mountain goat in Utah is a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity. According to authorities, a man from northern Utah thought that meant he could kill three of the animals.
The Rocky Mountain goat hunt opened on Sept. 10 on Willard Peak. Witnesses on the mountain reported to state conservation officers that a man was responsible for shooting three mountain goats that day. The witnesses confronted the man and were in the process of sharing their information with officers when the suspect called from his home in Willard and reported that he had shot one mountain goat and couldn't retrieve it due to steep terrain, so he shot another and couldn't find that one.
An investigation by the law-enforcement section of the Division of Wildlife Resources turned up three dead mountain goats, according to Sgt. Mitch Lane.
Charges have yet to be filed, but the suspect faces at least three counts of wanton destruction of protected wildlife, each punishable by up to $5,000 and five years in jail. The court also could award the state up to $18,000 in restitution for illegal killing of "trophy" animals. Utah offered only 129 mountain goat permits for 2011 and the Ogden/Willard Peak unit made up the bulk of the tags with 58.
Rocky Mountain goats live in steep terrain at high elevations. Capt. Rick Olson said once a goat has been shot, the law requires the animal be retrieved by the hunter, regardless of where it ends up.
"We have actually had some hunters hire rock climbers to go get some animals that fell in tough spots," Olson said.
Lane said without the help of the witnesses, this is a case that the state might have never even heard about, let alone been able to prosecute.
"It may have gone undetected. To get into the ravines and cliffs up there can be extremely difficult," he said.