Salt Blocks and Goats

The summer is flying by and many of us are enjoying the beautiful views from Scotchman Peak. There have been a few instances of folks leaving food for the goats but most hikers are respecting they are wild animals and are treating them as such. The goats do seem to be learning that most hikers are loud, wave long skinny sharp poles and don’t let them get their licks in for salt. Our Mountain Goat Ambassador program (a joint venture between the US Forest Service, Idaho Fish and Game and Friends of Scotchman Peaks) is making a difference. The goats are better behaved and not as bold as the summer progresses.  They still will come close when people do not “haze” (yell, wave arms and hiking poles) or detour around the goats. (The picture above left — taken by Goat Ambassador Susan Bates Harbuck — shows an appropriate distance from which to view mountain goats.) 

We appreciate all the feedback we have received regarding this program. Several have wondered if IDFG could place salt blocks to reduce potential dangerous interaction between hikers and mountain goats. While this seems like a reasonable solution wildlife experts are concerned about unintended consequences.

According to Idaho Fish and Game “placing salt blocks could cause a dependency situation and would have to be maintained.” Also, hunting around salt blocks is illegal and they would not want to create a problem for an unknowing hunter. They went on to say that placing salt blocks “may attract prey species frequently enough that they {the goats} become more vulnerable to predators such as lions.”

Disease is also a concern

Another concern is the possibility of spreading disease with animals congregating in a small area. Some biologists are concerned that salt blocks can draw goats as well as other species to one location where they may lick the same block or interact in other ways that spread respiratory diseases.  Generally any concentration of wildlife carries some risks of transmission of communicable disease and this especially true at salt blocks.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is not ruling out placing salt blocks if there are serious goat/hiker conflicts. But, such action does come with the risk of unintended consequences.

It is ideal to allow hikers the privilege of seeing these beautiful creatures closer than surrounding peaks but if a few hikers continue to offer them pop tarts and take selfies with the goats they may resort to more drastic measures.

We have received reports of other hikers (not Goat Ambassadors) politely instructing folks on proper hiker behavior in mountain goat habitat. It is excellent that hikers are helping hikers learn!

You can help by becoming an Ambassador

Please help keep the goats and hikers safe and the trail open. If you are interested in being a Goat Ambassador email for more information or sign up here.



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Categories: Blog, Right Now
About The Author:

Mary Franzel can be found roaming the Lightning Creek area most nice days and spends her summers as FSPW's Mountain Goat Education Coordinator.

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