What To Do When You Encounter a Mountain Goat

Mountain goats are among the most majestic creatures in the wilderness; unfortunately, they are also one of the most aggressive. Numerous reports of aggressive goat populations led to the closure of the Mount Ellinor Trail in Olympic National Forest last month and at least one human fatality has been attributed to the animals.

Here are preventative steps to avoid negative contact with mountain goats.

Look out for number one
Most critters are scared off by human scents. Goats, on the other hand, have a strong attraction for the traces of salt found in human urine – so much so that herds may travel for miles to locate the saline smell. So do yourself and other hikers a favor and step at least 50 feet off the trail if you have to tinkle. If you don’t believe this, check out ‘Mountain Goats Drank My Pee’, an article by Dave McBee that appeared in Get Lost Magazine, for further details.

Concede the trail
Mountain goats are not naturally aggressive and sightings of the animal on established trails are rare. But even so, close encounters do occur. As a general rule, people should stay at least 150 feet away from goats at all times. If the animal begins to stamp its feet, snort or display any other signs of animosity, folks should quietly retreat from the trail. “Give the goat the right-of-way,” notes Nancy Jones, a Visitor Services Specialist with the Cle Elum Ranger District. If backing off doesn’t calm the agitated animal, then attempt to scare it with loud noises. Whistles, air horns and even loudly snapped towels have been known to effectively ward off angry goats.

Report troublesome goats
In Fall 2010, Robert Boardman was fatally wounded after being attacked by a goat in Olympic National Park. The subsequent investigation revealed the animal that killed the Port Angeles man had a reputation for acting aggressively toward humans. “However,” park spokeswoman Barb Maynes told King 5 News, “nothing led us to believe us it was appropriate to take the next level of removal.” Since the tragedy, national parks have adopted a much more proactive approach to monitoring and evaluation of goat populations – and visitors who come across aggressive animals are urged to report their encounter to park officials. For more information on how to determine “unacceptable goat behavior”, check out the ‘Mountain Goat Action Plan published by Olympic National Park last summer.

Do you have any crazy mountain goat encounter stories?

By Brad Nehring