Mountain goats look like harmless and wacky animals, but these goats can be dangerous to humans. When mountain goats were introduced to a habitat that didn’t suit them in the 1920’s no one could have predicted that there would be serious consequences for goats and humans. Without their natural environment, the goats went looking for the salty nutrients they needed. This led to a harrowing tale of mountain goats terrorizing humans.
15. Olympic National Park
If you hiked Olympic National Park in September near Port Angeles, Washington, you may have witnessed something strange: mountain goats wearing orange backpacks and blindfolds as they were removed by helicopter. The jarring site was commonplace in the fall of 2018. Park rangers decided it was a necessity after mountain goats started nibbling on humans.
14. How Did This Happen?
Olympic National Park is a majestic nature reserve with incredible biodiversity. The Park includes the Pacific coastline, alpine areas, a temperate rainforest, and forests on the drier east side. This makes the Park extremely popular for a wide variety of outdoor sports, like camping, boating, skiing, hiking, and climbing.
13. Welcome, Goats
Where do the mountain goats fit into this picture? Well, despite the diversity of the terrain, the Park lacks one thing crucial to mountain goat survival: salty rocks. Mountain goats were not natural residents of the Park. Hunters put them there in the 1920’s. Without any natural predators in the area, their population soared.
12. On the Prowl
Although their population thrived, goats had to get experiential and creative to satisfy their need for salt rocks. Goats tend to get salt from salt rocks because of the way these rocks hold water. But there are no salt rocks in Olympic National Park. As a result, goats were on the prowl for salty goodness.
11. Baaad Cravings
Mountain goats must satisfy their salt fix. One of the best sources of salt happens to be human sweat and other secretions (think urine), which the goats decided were perfectly calibrated for their needs. The mountain goats developed a habit of sneaking up on unsuspecting humans from behind rocks and trees, then pouncing on them to lick up their sweat.
10. Tourist Terror
Mountain goats have no fear of humans and therefore they had many run-ins with tourists. They would lick people’s exposed skin and even lick up their urine if the people peed behind a bush. (No one promised this gallery wouldn’t be gross!)
9. A Tragic Turn
As funny as this story may seem, it took a tragic turn when a goat killed a hiker. Robert H. Boardman, a 63-year-old from Port Angeles, went hiking with his friends and wife in 2010, but was killed in a goat attack. The goat attacked with its hooves and horns, stopping anyone from rescuing Boardman. By the time they got to Boardman it was too late. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
8. A Three-Year Deportation Plan
National Park Service rangers knew they needed to do something about this issue. First they started making visitors aware that they may face dangerous mountain goats. In collaboration with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Forest Service, the team decided they needed to remove goats from the Park and return them where they belong.
7. Waves of Goats
The first wave of goats would be sedated, blindfolded and carefully airlifted out of the Park. They are then moved into a more appropriate nature reserve. The second wave got the orange vest treatment, while others got their own crate on a truck bound for a better habitat.
There are about 700 goats within Olympic National Park, and officials plan to remove about half of them to the North Cascade Mountains, where they are a native species accustomed to lots of snow. This plan has not been without controversy. Environmental sciences Professor David Wallin from Western Washington University thinks removal won’t fix it. “This translocation effort isn’t going to solve the problem, but we figure we can move 300 to 400 goats over and that’s a 10 percent bump in the population [in the North Cascades]. Our hope is that will help jump-start the recovery.”
5. Importing Goats
Converseley, Ruth Milner, who works for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife thinks the move is a classic win-win situation. The population of goats in the Cascade Mountains has been on the decline, so importing goats may help increase the population.
Some goats are being moved by truck rather than by helicopter. Here you can see dozens of the goats hanging out in refrigerated trucks. Mountain goats need to stay cool, so the trucks were the perfect solution to keep them safe and sound during transport.
3. Ankle Monitors
The mountain goats who remain in Olympic National Park will now wear tracking devices to ensure that the Park Rangers know where they are at all times. The goats who have already been exposed as aggressive or seriously ill will be put down. This is necessary to protect humans but also other animal species in the North Cascades.
2. Getting Salty
The tracking and removal of the goats has already paid dividends. “We saw the ecosystem bounce back,” said Patti Happe, a wildlife biologist. “When you get a group of goats hanging out in an area they move around and trample the soil and fragile vegetation. They also form these wallows and create big patches of exposed soil, and with erosion, they get bigger and bigger.”
1. On Probation
The unusual plans for mountain goats have received a lot of attention. Park Rangers warn that the problem will not be completely resolved and that hikers and enthusiasts should be careful in the Park just in case. In the meantime, the salty goats are officially on probation.