They may be beautiful to look at in the wild, but with their sharp horns, mountain goats have been a cause of concern in the Olympic National Park, especially since a goat fatally gored a 63-year-old hiker in 2010.
As part of their mountain goat action plan, the National Parks Service is considering a change of scenery for the animals. The goats may be moved to another mountain range in Washington that has seen a decline in the goat population, according to Parks spokeswoman Barb Maynes.
“There may be an opportunity there for goats from the Olympics where they don't belong, to be relocated over to the Cascades where in fact, their numbers have been dropping, and they do belong there,” Maynes said.
In fact, Maynes said mountain goats aren’t native to the Olympics – they were introduced to the area in the 1920s as game for hunters.
Besides relocation, other preliminary ideas on the table include ramping up the mountain goat action plan that's already in place. This could involve rangers pelting the goats with bean bags and generally harassing them until they leave.
There's also the possibility of killing goats to curtail the growing population. Maynes said that a goat census conducted in 2011 showed a 5 percent increase in the population year over year between 2004 and 2011.
“We are now seeing and having reports of visitors seeing goats in areas where they haven’t been seen in a very long time,” Maynes said.
Some of the park’s goats have grown accustomed to being fed and, as a result, have lost their fear of people. Mountain goats are also extremely attracted to salt – which draws them to the sweat on people’s clothes, backpack straps, boots and socks, or to urine.
Officials suggested a number of safety precautions for those encountering goats in the Olympic National Park or elsewhere.
- Keep your distance. Stay at least 50 yards away from a goat. Never feed mountain goats.
- Move slowly away if the goat approaches.
- Chase it off by yelling, waving your arms or throwing rocks if it persists.
- Do not leave clothes or gear unattended.
- Urinate on rocks, bare soil, or snow at least 100 feet from the trail.
- Report any close goat encounters to the nearest ranger station.
Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.