I wanted to keep hiking along a trail in Olympic National Park, but the animals got there first.
I came around a rocky outcrop on a Hurricane Ridge trail recently to find a mountain goat (feeling protective, with a baby goat nearby) on one side of the trail, a curious deer on the other.
I definitely did not want to walk into the middle of their standoff. I backed up. The goat lowered her sharp horns and charged the deer, who fled in leaps and bounds down the hill. The goats ambled off. I continued down the trail.
Mountain goats have been in the news lately, with Olympic National Park announcing Monday that park staff will study ways to manage the goats within the park. (In 2010 a hiker was fatally gored by a goat in the park.) And The Seattle Times’ Pacific magazine had a comprehensive story on mountain goats on Sunday.
What’s it all mean for hikers who may encounter mountain goats in Olympic or Mount Rainier National Park (as I did last weekend) or elsewhere in the high country? Be wary, particularly in Olympic National Park where some goats are getting too habituated to people. Scare them off, recommends the park, so they don’t get too used to humans. And don’t pee by the trail. That turns it into one long salt-lick, attracting the goats.
As an environmental reporter for the Times in the 1980s, I watched and wrote about hundreds of mountain goats being helicoptered off Olympic’s Hurricane Ridge to reduce the population. Now they’re thriving again, at least in the Olympics. Time for another relocation?