In the summer of 2015, one of our most popular trails, Scotchman Peak Trail #65, was closed after several human encounters with aggressive mountain goats. The goats had become habituated by human behavior: primarily feeding and approaching goats for photo ops.
This behavior by humans not only endangers other humans, but the goats. Historically, wild animals that become habituated to humans end up dead because they lose their fear and come to see humans as a source of food or other attractive resource. In the case of mountain goats, the resource they seek most from humans is salt.
You can learn more about goats and their habits, and how to be safe around them, first of all, by watching a National Park Service video.
This movie was made in response to the death of a hiker — and the offending mountain goat, which was killed for its aggressive behavior — in Olympic National Park several years ago. The hiker was doing the right thing by refusing the goat his lunch. The goat took offense because so many other people had fed it and gored the hiker in the femoral artery.
There are several simple rules:
DON’T feed goats!
Don’t allow goats to lick you! (This should be a no-brainer.)
Don’t leave a pack or clothing unattended near goats.
Don’t urinate on bare rock or near the trail. Goats crave the salt in urine.
If goats approach and can’t be dissuaded by yelling or throwing a rock, retreat yourself.
The US Forest Service, one of our partners in goat education, has provided us with an educational document regarding goats and their behavior, including body language. It’s a very interesting and informative read.