Hiking safely with mountain goats

A man with Mountain Goat on Mt Ellinor Trail in the Olympic National Forest in Washington. May 4, 2016. USDA Forest Service photo. For Mountain Goat Safety Guidelines: www.fs.usda.gov/detail/olympic/home/?cid=stelprdb5412239

How does one hike safely with mountain goats?

Step one: Back away, slowly.

Catching a glimpse of a goat perched high on the side of a craggy hillside or cliff is a welcome sight to many hikers and other recreational users of Your Northwest Forests.

But as the number of people using the forests increases, there’s also an increased risk of human-wildlife encounters that pose a threat to both humans and goats.

Three mountain goats are harnessed to a hoist line as they are transported below a helicopter to a handler, who waits to unharness the goats in the bed of a flatbed truck. The goats were sedated, blindfolded, then brought to this landing zone for veterinarian care prior to transport National Forests in the north Cascades mountains for release in native habitat. National Park Service Photo John Gussman.
Three mountain goats are harnessed to a hoist line as they are transported below a helicopter to a handler, who waits to unharness the goats in the bed of a flatbed truck. The goats were sedated, blindfolded, then brought to this landing zone for veterinarian care prior to transport National Forests in the north Cascades mountains for release in native habitat. National Park Service photo by John Gussman.

At places like Mount Ellinor on the Olympic National Forest, where the goats don’t naturally range (they were introduced to the area by hunters), salt they need to live is scarce.

Goats have been known to seek out humans, sometimes aggressively, in search of their food, sweat, and even urine.

In other forests, some mountain goats have grown accustomed to curious people getting too close and lost their fear of humans, with similar results.

While several agencies are working to relocate some goats to areas where they naturally range, it’s important to prevent all wild goats from becoming habituated to human contact, so they can remain wild without posing an undue threat to humans’ safety.

To protect wildlife from negative impacts of human contact:

  • Keep your distance! Stay at least 50 yards away from all mountain goats – about half the length of a football field.
  • If a mountain goat approaches, slowly move away from it to keep a safe distance.
  • If it continues to approach, try to scare it off by yelling, waving a piece of clothing, or throwing rocks.
  • Never surround, crowd, chase, or follow a mountain goat.
  • Do not feed mountain goats (or allow them to lick your skin, clothes, or gear, which may have absorbed salt from your sweat).
  • If you need to urinate while hiking, move far from the trail to avoid leaving concentrations of salts and minerals trailside, or contributing to the accumulation of minerals in one place.

Source information: Olympic National Forest (website)

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