Mount Ellinor Stays Closed While Goats Retrained to Avoid People
Forest service officials are keeping Olympic National Forest’s Mount Ellinor Trail closed while they continue to monitor and address mountain goat-human interactions. The trail was closed as a precautionary measure to ensure public safety in July when four separate hiking parties reported encounters with aggressive mountain goats. Before they consider opening the popular trail, forest officials are implementing an aversive conditioning plan designed to discourage the goats from approaching people.
Monitoring, retraining Mount Ellinor goats
Officials say the goats near the trail have grown habituated to people and are inappropriately assertive in their efforts to obtain food and salt from humans. Up to twenty goats have been observed in the area, including seven kids.
Wildlife specialists from Olympic National Forest have been working closely with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympic National Park, and mountain goat experts to monitor the situation and determine appropriate actions. While their goal is to reopen the popular trail as soon as possible, public safety remains their first consideration.
“We will reopen the trail as soon as it is safe but we need to give our strategy time to work," said Acting Forest Supervisor Amanda McAdams. "People need to become a part of the solution and not the problem; they can do this by not feeding the goats or allowing them to lick salt from their skin or backpacks.”
Officials are working on managing the human-mountain goat conflicts by looking at goat numbers, distribution, and behavior. They have also implemented an aversive conditioning plan designed to discourage the goats from approaching people.
“Co-existence is a two-way street. We want people to keep the goats wild. The goats also need to be taught to respect our personal space and not to approach people,” McAdams said.
Encountering mountain goats on trail
If you only remember two guidelines around mountain goats, remember the 50/50 rule:
- Hikers should urinate at least 50 feet off the trail, preferably on rocks. The animals' attraction to the salt in human urine can bring goats closer to trails (and the hikers on them) than is good for either species.
- Try to stay 50 yards (or about 150 feet) away from mountain goats at all times. For photographers, this means using a telephoto lens to snap your shots. Never try to approach or pet kid (young) mountain goats. No matter how cute they are, mountain goats are still wild animals. It's up to hikers to give the goats a wide berth, even if they are standing close to, or even in, the trail. If the trail doesn't permit you to go around, consider turning back early.