Schedule and speakers have not yet been decided, but stay tuned for that information as it becomes available.
Written by Nancy Clough and published in the Idaho Centers for Independent Living newsletter.
Goatpacking is a growing sport that is enabling many people to go places they otherwise could not reach. The word packgoat generally means a full sized goat that is emotionally bonded to its human and is willing to go anywhere you go while carrying your supplies. These animals lighten the load on the trail allowing you to travel with the gear you need to be comfortable and safe.
Many years ago, our family became aware that my husband had advanced arthritis in his spine. Sciatic pain from his spine deterioration was not going to allow him to carry a heavy backpack while touring the backcountry. We were avid hunters and loved being out in the Idaho mountains. In researching the options for pack stock that could assist in our love of traveling in the wilderness we came upon packgoats.
Goats require much less land, tack, trailers and barn space than horses, mules, or llamas. Packgoats are usually neutered males known as wethers. The initial investment was quite reasonable as there is little other use for this type of goat. Packgoats are either bottle fed as babies or handled and socialized frequently to establish an unbreakable bond with humans. This bond is what makes packgoats fun and reliable as trail buddies.
Their size of 170-220 lbs. makes them easy to handle for people who are not up to the rest of handling larger stock animals. My three packgoats easily fit in the back of a pick up truck. Cross buck saddles designed specifically for goats allow them to carry weight on their backs. They can travel about ten miles a day carrying up to 25% of their body weight when fully matured at age four. In peak condition and cool weather, performance could increase.
Goats require no additional food to be carried on pack trips. They forage for a meal much like deer or elk. They are the ultimate water conservationists and rarely require carrying additional water. Packgoats do require a collar and length of rope to be secured at night. A light tarp over their heads is nice if you expect foul weather.
Goats are herd animals and you become the alpha goat. Where you go your goat will follow. They will follow you up rocky mountains, across water, into the forest, snow, or just walking down the trail. Training hikes for young packgoats helps them experience challenging terrain and eliminate fear. They develop confidence and figure out what you expect of them.
Much of the gear you need to be comfortable and safe in the wilderness is amazingly lightweight and strong. Chairs to sit on, mattresses to sleep on, extra clothes, food, and first aid supplies can be bundled to fit on the backs of these loyal and hard working animals. We take a tipi with a packable wood stove on cooler hiking trips. You could rough it without these luxuries but with a bad back, knees, or other mobility limiting problems it becomes more difficult if you don’t have a chair. Comfort and rest are important to reduce the risk and enjoy your time outdoors.
We love the solitude of the backcountry and pushing the limits of our abilities. Packgoats have allowed us to go further and feel safer being better prepared with the equipment we need in case of an unexpected situation. Our goats have also joined in on trail maintenance and clean up projects. If you would like additional information on pack goats you can find it at the North American Packgoat Association website: www.napga.org
A great article about Justin and Desarae Starck that appeared in the Powell Tribune and written by Mark Davis. Please click the link under the photo!
Photo submissions will be taken through September 30th.
These are the rules:
-Participants must be current NAPgA members
-Participants must put their name in the photo’s description field.
-Each participant may submit up to five photos.
-To qualify for a calendar page, photos MUST be in landscape orientation and high resolution. High resolution means at least 2500 x 1900 pixels.
If these qualifications are not met, your photo cannot be used for the calendar no matter how many votes it receives!
Here’s how to enter:
Go to NAPgA’s Flickr account:
Sign in at top right with the email and password information that was emailed to you (if you didn’t receive the email or you need it re-sent, please contact us or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have a personal Yahoo! account, you will have to log out of it in order to sign into the NAPgA account.
Flickr can be complicated to use, so please pay close attention to these instructions.
1. To upload photos, click the little cloud and arrow icon in the top right corner. Once your photos are on the page, click the blue “Upload” button in the top right corner.
2. After your photos are uploaded, click the “Albums” link in the middle of the page. Click the “+ New Album” link found to the right of the existing albums.
3. A line of photos will appear along the bottom of the page. Drag your photos into your new album. Add your name to the album title so we know it’s yours.
4. Once your photos are added to your album, click on each photo and add a title and description. In the description field please put the location of the photo, names of goats, people, photo credits, or other information you would like to include.
If you have any questions or trouble using the Flickr site, please contact us! We are happy to help!
Now let’s see those awesome packgoat photos!
The Sierra and Sequoia National Forests are currently in the comment period for their plan revisions. Both plans are very similar and contain the same language regarding packgoats. The comment period ends September 26th and one comment covers both plans.
These plans and info about how to comment can be found at this web address: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r5/ landmanagement/planning/?cid=stelprdb5444003
Both contain the same language regarding packgoats, found on page 61 of the Sequoia plan and pages 59/60 of the Sierra plan. As usual, we must urge them to stop referring to “sheep and goats” as if they were the same species. For packgoats, the plans state that they should not be allowed in high risk bighorn sheep habitat “unless risks can be adequately mitigated.” With packgoats, we know that risks can be mitigated, so it’s important to emphasize our Best Management Practices.
We can also link them to Dr. Highland’s 2016 M.ovi study, the results of which can be found here:
There are several good supporting documents under the Resources tab on this webpage that might help you with your comments.
Comments can be submitted electronically here: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/ CommentInput?Project=3375
Or you can email comments to: email@example.com
Or snail mail them to:
Planning Team Leader, Forest Plan Revision
1323 Club Drive
Vallejo, CA 94592
Gillette Public Access Television made a wonderful video at this year’s Rendezvous, featuring interviews with our president Curtis King, Marc Warnke of packgoats.com, and Clay Zimmerman of High Uinta Pack Goats. Enjoy!
When Carolyn Eddy died in April 2018, she willed a large sum of money to NAPgA to be used to fund research that will further the interests of goat packing. The money is currently being held in trust until the right research project is proposed. We would like to see the fund continue and grow even after Carolyn’s initial endowment is spent.
A permanent link to this page can be found under the resources tab on our website.
If you would like to contribute to the Carolyn Eddy Memorial Fund, please specify this in your donation.
What we learned:
– The working plan is currently in pre-draft stage, which means we have a chance to change it before the official objection process begins. The Forest Service is not required to release the plan or take comments during this stage, and I believe the GMUG FS may be the first to ever put a plan out for public input before the official release. This is a rare opportunity!
– The proposed packgoat ban is coded FW-STND, which is a forest-wide standard. This means packgoats would be banned from anything deemed “bighorn sheep habitat” (which is a huge part of the GMUG) with no flexibility, wiggle-room, or exceptions. Exact wording on page 27:
FW-STND-SPEC-16: To maintain effective separation among species in habitat occupied by bighorn sheep, the use of recreational pack goats and the use of goats and sheep for invasives and/or noxious weed management is prohibited.
– We have until July 29th to comment on the GMUG plan. These comments provide no standing for the later objection period, however what I think the GMUG folks are trying to do is edit the plan now so they can deal with fewer official objections later on. When the document goes into the objection phase, the FS is required to answer each and every objection. I believe they are trying to avoid some hassle by drafting a plan using public input now to avoid facing backlash later on. We don’t want hassle either, so let’s not miss this chance!
– The GMUG plan includes many allotments for grazing domestic sheep. As much as 2/3rds (1.9 million acres) of the GMUG is designated grazing area. Since grazing sheep continue to be allowed in the proposed plan, there is no logical reason why packgoats should be banned as a way to protect bighorn sheep.
What to do next:
– If you live in Colorado (or you really feel like traveling), consider attending one of these open houses to make sure goat packers are represented:
July 9- Hotchkiss, Heritage Hall, 403 East Bridge Street
July 10- Palisade, Community Center, 120 West 8th Street
July 11- Montrose, Event Center, 1036 North 7th Street
July 16- Norwood, Lone Cone Library, 1455 Pinion St.
July 17- Ridgway, 4H Center and Fairgrounds, 22739 US-550
July 18- Gunnison, Fred Field Western Heritage Center, Van Tuyl Room, 275 South Spruce Street
All open houses are from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
– Write a letter 1.) requesting that goat packing be included in the activities important to the GMUG NF which are listed on page8, 2.) that the ban on page 27 be removed, and 3.) that the reference to packgoats on page 143 be removed since packgoats are NOT an example of disease transmission to bighorn sheep (there is not one documented case of a packgoat giving disease to bighorns). Exact wording on page 143:
To increase awareness, educate partners and visitors of the potential for pathogen transmission affecting native plants and animals (e.g., recreation pack goats and bighorn sheep, the need to decontaminate wading boots to reduce spread of chytrid fungus, or whirling disease, etc.).
The Forest Service is looking for reasonable, substantive, and unique comments on this forest plan. If you ever visit Colorado, be sure to mention it in your letter since tourism has economic value to the state. Keep in mind that NAPgA sometimes holds Rendevous in Colorado (our 2017 Rendy was held in the Uncompahgre NF).
Comments can be submitted to:
Or to the online comment form here:
Or by old-fashioned paper letter to this mailing address:
Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests
Attn: Plan Revision Team
2250 South Main Street
Delta, CO 81416
Previously submitted comments can be read here:
This year’s Rendezvous in Elgin Park near Buffalo, WY was smaller than Rendys in recent past, but it was a very dedicated group and camaraderie was high. The weather was cold but the scenery was stunning and the location perfectly suited to accommodate humans and packgoats alike.
On Friday, Marc Warnke of www.packgoats.com gave an outstanding talk on training packgoats and showcased his beautiful Alpine boys, Merciless, Thorn, and Ridge.
Nancy Clough, with a little help from Nan Hassey, gave a talk on goat first aid, using Carolyn Eddy’s book as a guide.
On Saturday Charlie Hackbarth of Sopris Unlimited gave a demonstration of his packsaddle system with the help of his daughter Alexa Metrick, Clay Zimmerman of High Uinta Packgoats, and Nan Hassey of Goat-O-Rama with her two goats, Finn and Sputnik.
Robert and Connie Losee came all the way from Texas! Nan helped them get their Nubian wether, Sprite, started in harness for the first time.
Nan set up an obstacle course primarily using features from the natural terrain. Almost everyone took their goats through it and it was a fun hit! Here, Finn demonstrates how to be calm while Nan opens an umbrella.
Dean Kroon’s goat was brave about crossing his first teeter-totter.
All in all it was a great Rendy. Many thanks to Justin and Desarae Starck for doing all the hard work to scout a location and put it all together! We look forward to Rendy 2020!
Curtis King recently teamed up with Marc Warnke of packgoats.com to bring us a video about NAPgA’s Best Management Practices for hiking and camping with goats. These practices are how we avoid losing goats and prevent goat-wildlife interactions. Enjoy the video!