Our Northwest

How to defend against angry mountain goats

Wednesday, July 29, 2015by  Jon Osterberg

The widow of a man gored to death in 2010 by a mountain goat while hiking in the Olympics has lost a lawsuit accusing National Park officials of negligence.
     The incident was unusual because mountain goats typically are shy and docile. But some can be aggressive nuisances when they crave minerals and salt, or when protecting their young. This particular male goat stalked the 63-year-old hiker for a mile, gored him in the thigh without provocation, then stood over him and fended off the hiker’s companions. The man bled to death.
     I’ve hiked a lot and once packed into wilderness on horseback, so I know the drill for avoiding bears and cougars. But until now I’d never viewed mountain goats as a threat. How do you protect yourself if confronted by an aggressive ram?
     I’ve compiled a list, based on advice from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, and Washington Trails Association:

  • Urinate at least 50 feet off the trail, preferably on rocks. Goats are attracted to the salt in human urine, drawing them closer to trails and hikers.
  • Give goats a wide berth, no matter how cute or docile they appear. Never feed them.
  • If confronted, retreat. If that doesn’t work, scare the goat away. First, use noise – some hikers carry a small air horn. Blow a whistle. If nothing else, scream at it.
  • Flap your arms and clothing, like a jacket or mylar blanket. Do not stomp your feet, which goats perceive as a challenge.
  • If the goat hasn’t left, throw rocks at it.
  • As a last resort, use a large stick to fend it off or club it, or defend yourself with a knife.

     Afterward, report aggressive encounters to the ranger office nearest you, and to Fish & Wildlife.

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