Local ecological knowledge of mountain goats in the Skeena Region of British Columbia and its importance to wildlife management
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The Skeena Region of British Columbia is home to 49% of the province’s mountain goat population. Mountain goats have cultural, economic, and ecological value in the Skeena Region. However, despite continual efforts by the Province to manage the species, many local populations have declined or been extirpated. One blind spot for scientists and managers has been the use and integration of local ecological knowledge (LEK) of experts who frequently interact with and monitor mountain goats. Often mistaken as “anecdotal”, LEK has been overlooked in the role that it could play in localized management programs. I interviewed local experts throughout the Skeena Region, focusing on harvest selection, monitoring practices, observations of local population dynamics and habitat, anthropogenic disturbances, and perceptions of management. My research indicates that local experts have substantial knowledge and expertise that can be incorporated into managerial systems by careful study and analysis using ethnoecological methods (e.g., how to identify experts, how to validate and confirm knowledge, observations, etc.). Most local experts who participated in this study have observed mountain goat declines in the areas they frequent (as observed over decadal scales). Input by local experts, and further study into these areas have found that high harvest rates, growing backcountry recreation, and the effects of climate change could be important factors for these declines.