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What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

Posted by Lauren Braden at Aug 18, 2011 08:15 PM |

Last October, Bob Boardman was hiking at Klahhane Ridge in Olympic National Park with his wife and a friend. It was a trail he hiked often, and on that trail, he regularly saw mountain goats, introduced to Washington's Olympic Mountains in the 1920s.

Last October, Bob Boardman was hiking at Klahhane Ridge in Olympic National Park with his wife and a friend. It was a trail he hiked often, and on that trail, he regularly saw mountain goats, introduced to Washington's Olympic Mountains in the 1920s.

More than 300 of these goats live in the park. Not all of these goats are curious, beguiling creatures, though. Some are irritating, and even downright aggressive. Boardman had complained to Olympic National Park officials about a particularly aggressive mountain goat on this very trail several times before.

At lunchtime, Boardman and his fellow hikers stopped at an overlook to eat. A male mountain goat approached them and became aggressive, and so the hikers got up to leave. The ram left with them, though, and followed closely behind Boardman for almost a mile. At some point, unprovoked, the ram gored Boardman in his thigh, then stood over him. Boardman bled to death as his companions watched helplessly.

These new details of last year's tragic incident came to light in the Seattle Times and the Peninsula Daily News last week. That's because wrongful death and personal injury claims for just over $10 million were recently filed against Olympic National Park over Boardman’s death by his estate, his widow and his stepson. The family is now in the six-month waiting period before they can file a lawsuit. According to a press release we received from the family's attorney, a federal judge without a jury will ultimately decide on the merits and damages of the case because the park service is in a federal jurisdiction.

The claims allege that the National Park Service knew this particular goat was a danger for nearly four years before it killed Boardman and that the park service could have prevented Boardman's death had they followed their own established procedures for removing known dangerous animals from Olympic National Park.

Susan Chadd, Boardman's widow, had this to say in the press release: "This was not a random act of nature. The park service knew this animal was dangerous, but did nothing. My husband's death could have been prevented. I hope this case changes the way the park service manages dangerous animals."

What were their procedures for managing known dangerous animals? How have those procedures changed in light of this incident? We contacted Olympic National Park on Monday to talk about the claim, but have not yet heard back.

According to the Peninsula Daily News, the park released a revised Mountain Goat Action Plan on July 7, and the circumstances surrounding Boardman's death factored in to the changes made to the plan. It evidently expands the option to shoot mountain goats if they are overly aggressive, meaning if they attack, make contact, corner, or make it impossible for hikers to pass.

It's not clear if these changes would have prevented the attack on Boardman had they been put into practice prior to October 2010.

And, mountain goats are hardly restricted to the Olympic mountains.

On the other side of Puget Sound, aggressive mountain goat behavior has been observed and has garnered the attention of hikers and authorities. Perhaps you've seen a posted warning sign yourself on a recent hike in the Teanaway; it is posted at several trailheads in the Cle Elum Ranger District, including Lake Ingalls, Long Peak and Iron Peak. I spoke with Nancy Jones, the Visitor Services Specialist with the ranger district earlier this week about the goat encounters. She said that there have been numerous reports this year from hikers encountering goats that approached them.

"They want the salt," Jones said. "Hikers should urinate at least 50 feet from the trail, and on rocks if possible."

She also said that people need to take it upon themselves to avoid encounters. "Goats are wild animals. If the goat wants the trail, give the goat the trail. Back off. Give the goat the right-of-way. Go the other way," she said.

If you do have an encounter, Jones says to "Scream at it. Try to discourage it from following you. Wave clothing at it. Throw a rock at it if you have to." Also, don't pet the kid goats.

I am reminded of camping in the Enchantments ten years ago when a bold ram came into our campsite several times and bumped the tent when we were inside of it. It wouldn't have occurred to me to report that incident to the Forest Service at the time, but I probably would now, given what happened to Bob Boardman last year.

Have you become more concerned about aggressive mountain goats? What do you think land management agencies should do about goats they have identified as aggressive? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

Lawsuit needs to be thrown out... your in the wilderness, welcome to life outside the city and in the mountain where the goats live. You are crossing into their lives (goats) and everyone knows the risk when they go hiking. Sad someone died, but there is no reason for a lawsuit. And people can complain about the goats up there all they want, no one needs to do anything about it, its their turf and they can defend it if they feel the need no matter the behavior of the animal. Dont like it, dont hike it.

Posted by:


Lismic on Aug 19, 2011 09:01 AM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

I kind of agree, but the flip side is that the goats are not indigenous to the area. If they were introduced by humans they can be taken out by humans.

Carry rights in the parks could have avoided this situation without injury to anyone.

Posted by:


ciroque on Aug 27, 2011 09:22 AM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

Not really. There are carry rights in the ONP. It is still illegal to discharge a firearm though, which is a good thing because we've all seen what happens otherwise: poor defenseless signs are murdered.

Posted by:


Sole Man on Aug 23, 2011 09:41 AM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

Agreed, we need to stop the sign carnage :-)

I was looking through the RCW's and, while I am not a lawyer, the intent of making discharging a firearm in the park illegal is to do just that, protect the other people and park resources. When you get into self-defense situations there are statutes that tend to be overarching. One would need to be able to prove that they were in fact fearing for their, or their parties, safety.

Posted by:


ciroque on Aug 30, 2011 10:58 PM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

Aggresive mtn goats and bears may be scary, but the scariest thing to me is the 2 legged mammals armed to the teeth running around in the woods. How many hikers have been killed by wild animals in the last few years here is WA, and how many have been killed by 2 legged preditors or idiots with guns? (no offense to responsible hunters)

Posted by:


Muledeer on Aug 30, 2011 10:58 PM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

Were not indigenous to the area either. It isn't the goats fault they or their ancestors were put there. Its our fault if we go there. Everything in life takes risk. We always want to find blame on someone else for something tragic in our life. I spent the last 5 days in the Enchanments and was surrounded by goats but I knew the risk when I went there. I just kept still for awhile and they finally moved on grazing. But if one of the goats would have got aggresive with me I would have dealt with it the best I could. I would not have try to place blame on the park service. These ridiculous lawsuits are the reson we loose these areas for enjoyment or why they will cost so much to visit them in the future. I wonder want lawyer saw dollar signs and convinced them to sue. We will loose out because the Park Service will have to make up for any lose in a lawsuit. Why do we think all insurance is so high. They will put the cost squarely back on the consumer.

Posted by:


Mike on Aug 27, 2011 09:22 AM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

I agree with both of you- you ARE taking on the risk when you enter any wilderness area- HOWEVER in any other Washington area (outside of National Parks) you are permitted to carry a weapon (with permit) for protection, and so I believe that the National Parks must step up protection for hikers against known aggressive animals. Any idea on whether or not bear spray might be successful against mountain goats?

Posted by:


aleciaorg on Aug 19, 2011 09:18 AM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

I would have to say I also agree. This is the wild and these are "wild" animals. I could imagine that bear mace would do the trick against a mountain goat. But I'm sure a rock or a knife would also suffice if need be. Intimidation is usually the best defense we have against wild animals. Scream, yell, throw stuff, confuse and scare it. Animals can sense your fear and it only makes them more nervous. Easier said than done..

Posted by:


mbglassey on Aug 19, 2011 09:40 AM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

Your 3rd paragraph isn't entirely accurate:
"At lunchtime, Boardman and his fellow hikers stopped at an overlook to eat. A male mountain goat approached them and became aggressive.."
I attended the memorial for Bob, where the details of that fateful day on the mountain were shared.
The 300lb male goat followed the group for quite a while along the trail, mostly fixated on Bob, before they sat down to eat lunch. The goat did not simply show up when they stopped to have lunch. This is an important detail, as the ordeal went on for a few hours.

Posted by:


Laura Marmot on Aug 19, 2011 10:02 AM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

Two easy ways to make mountain goats and other wild animals leave your vicinity quickly are (1) Sounding a small air horn, which weighs only a couple of ounces; and (2) shaking a silver mylar blanket, which is also extremely light. Keep one or both of these items in a pocket where you can use them quickly.

Geezerhiker

Posted by:


geezerhiker on Aug 27, 2011 09:25 AM

Posted by:


MapleLeaf on Aug 19, 2011 05:42 PM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

do you think just a whistle will do or does it gotta be an airhorn?

Posted by:


mbglassey on Aug 19, 2011 10:20 PM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

I agree with geezer hiker. I keep a small air horn strapped to the front strap on my backpack and have used it several times. It works really well.

Posted by:


Mike on Aug 27, 2011 09:25 AM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

I believe that wild animals have the right to live in their natural habitat. Although the mountain goats of the Olympics were introduced to the area in the 1920's, it is fairly safe to say that this is now their home. Whenever a human being ventures into the wilderness, they risk the possibility of getting injured or even dying with any encounter with animals, or by falling, drowning or being caught off guard when bad weather hits. Bears, coyotes, cougars, elk and goats live throughout the Olympics. It is their home, not ours. People are guests. If I knew that aggressive animals were on a particular trail before I took off hiking, I would think that another safer trail might be a better option. The Olympic National Park and Forest offer people hundreds of miles of trails. These trails are shared. Wild animals move about them as well. The death in the Olympics was a terrible tragedy and everyone can learn valuable lessons from this potentially avoidable incident.

Posted by:


Rugosus on Aug 19, 2011 04:40 PM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

You have more and more people visiting WA wilderness. Consequently, human impact is causing animals to behave more aggressively (feeding animals, leaving trash and peeing all over the place). What should be done? Every one should practice the leave no trace principals, whether they're on a quick day hike or an overnight trip. High impact areas should provide more information to visitors on leave no trace. Maybe have rangers at trailheads on busy days to provide information.
Believe me, I know plenty of people who have no idea they're supposed to pack out ALL of their waste - they think it's OK to leave fruit peels and pee right off the trail. It's this mentality that needs to be changed. About the goats, as others have mentioned, they're not native to the area and who knows what kind of impact they have on the local fauna.

Posted by:


MapleLeaf on Aug 19, 2011 05:40 PM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

In addition to the above, I do agree with the legal action taken by the family of the unfortunate hiker killed by the goat. The park had been warned numerous times and didn't take action. An animal that repeatedly stalks and intimidates humans is considered a threat and should be culled. Wild animals normally shy away from people, unless they've been habituated to us.

Posted by:


MapleLeaf on Aug 19, 2011 05:40 PM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

It is inappropriate to speculate, but I can't help wondering if the unfortunate demise of Mr. Boardman has any bearing on why the rangers have been warning people not to stamp their feet when confronted by a goat. The goats apparently view feet stamping as a challenge.

Posted by:


Sole Man on Aug 22, 2011 12:19 AM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

I agree, we enter at our own risk. Signs were posted warning hikers of the goats and there behavior. I belive the parks dept, did there job informing all who entered onto this trail. We are visiting there home, no matter if they were intro to the area or not they along with all the animals in our lands live there, we dont. Then you have to look at what is agressive, to one person it may be one thing and to another something else, so then where would that leave us and the animals..whos to say? I think that johnsoccer21 and rugosus have it right on. I like the ideas that geezerhiker gave, I personally would try to use my bear mace, but like the idea of an air horn. We actually did this hike mabey 3 years ago and the signs were posted then. We ran into 3, moved of trail for them to pass which they did. Durning the later part of that hike we had a large male following us for a while and decided not to sit down and take lunch but keep moving quickly and had no problems there either.

Posted by:


Weluv2hike. on Aug 22, 2011 12:19 AM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

While I do feel it's only a last resort, Bear spray should work nice. Better option then packing heat (statistically, with bears at least), non-lethal, and hopefully conditions the aggressive goats to avoid people.

The lawsuit is BS. A wild animal, in the wilderness, got wild and killed somebody. That sounds like nobody's fault. Yes, it would be nice if the authorities did what they could to deal with the situation. But when we hike, we are responsible for our own safety.

Posted by:


Sean on Aug 24, 2011 03:26 AM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

Lawsuit is BS. When I go hiking almost everywhere, I carry a 5 inch pocket knife, bear spray, and a larger military style knife for defense. However, the best defense is your knowledge in the first place. As I hike I look at rocks, large sticks and safe exits. I have been confronted by animals a lot including bears. I get scared and my chest pumps, but i try to remain calm.

I take full responsibility when hiking alone, and don't blame any animals for any attacks. If I know a dangerous animal is on a trail, I avoid it. Period!

Posted by:


josh3326 on Aug 27, 2011 06:23 AM

What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

If the family was trying to get the Park Service to look into a way to fix the problem with the agressive goats the suit wouldn't be for so much money. I feel its more about the money than finding a solution.

Posted by:


Mike on Aug 27, 2011 09:53 AM

ciroque on What to do About Aggressive Mountain Goats?

If it comes down to the goat or me or those in my party, you can be damned sure I am going to give myself every advantage of being sure it is myself and my companions that walk away from the situation. I'll grant that both we and the goats are visitors, but like many people said, these are wild animals in wild places. I will defend myself and those with me.

Posted by:


ciroque on Jul 07, 2017 09:28 AM