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The History

of

San Clemente Island Goats

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Photo courtesy of scisland.orgSan Clemente Island is located 68 miles west of the coast of San Diego, California. Legend has it that Spanish explorers left goats on the island as a food source for future sailors. For the next 500 years, these goats lived, died, and multiplied—isolated on the island with virtually no human contact. At least, that's what we've always heard. This is a myth. Evidence indicates that San Clemente Island goats were brought to San Clemente Island in 1875 by Salvador Ramirez, who claimed to have brought them from Santa Catalina Island. If you'd like to see the source of this new story, you're welcome to read a rather scratchy copy of some pages from the Journal of Mammology, written by Donald Lee Johnson, Department of Geography, University of Illinois, Urbana. (Sorry, but it's a 1MG file at this time and it may be slow to download if you're not on high speed.)

Back to our story—In the mid 1980s, the U.S. Navy, who is responsible for the island, began to exterminate the goats. The goats were destroying the indigenous endangered plants, and negatively affecting the ecology of San Clemente Island. Not surprising—there were at least 15,000 goats on 57 square miles. Thousands of goats were exterminated.

The Fund for Animals stepped in to litigate for the live removal of the remaining goats from the island. Over 6,000 goats were trapped and resettled on the mainland. Many goats were adopted out as pets, and many of these were neutered first.

Thanks to a few foresighted rescuers, breeders, and the intervention of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, a handful of breeding stock was saved, and efforts to save this unique breed began.

Limited technology in the 1980's affected the availability of information and the means to spark nationwide public interest in San Clemente Island goats as a heritage breed. San Clemente Island goats exist in only a few states and Canadian provinces. Their wide geographical distribution has been a biological safeguard, but hasn't helped their popularity. Now they can be brought to the public eye. And when they are, they will undoubtedly be loved.

Presently, there are approximately 750 San Clemente Island goats left worldwide.
OK, this page is sufficiently brief and not particularly thrilling. If you want the really COOL history, continue reading by following these onsite links. . .

Start by reading about how the goats arrived on the island at our The Beginning page.

Then read about how goats were removed from the island at Exit Stage Left

Or you may wish to read about about
Goat Life on San Clemente Island



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San Clemente Island Goat Association
3037 Halfway Road
The Plains, VA 20198
540–687–8871