Friday, November 11, 2011

Don't urinate on the trails in Olympic National Park

Visitors to Olympic National Park are being advised not to pee near trails or face the risk of being attacked by mountain goats.

This warning stems from a fatal goring that occurred in the park last fall. Witnesses at the time of the attack described an aggressive male mountain goat, weighing more than 350 pounds, that approached, followed and fatally gored a Port Angeles man while he was hiking last October.

The warning is a new measure park officials are instituting as part of their revised Mountain Goat Action Plan. Biologists point out that hikers that urinate along trails are turning the pathways into "long, linear salt licks", which attracts the mountain goats. To avoid potential conflicts, park officials are advising hikers and campers to urinate at least 50 yards from a trail or campsite.

The report also provides some examples of unacceptable mountain goat behavior:

* Goat does not retreat when comes in sight of people, lets people approach within 150 feet.

* Goat approaches and follows people on trails or at camp or rest sites.

* Goat aggressively seeks out areas where humans urinate and consumes soil and vegetation where human urine is deposited.

* Goat makes contact with clothing or equipment; chews gear seeking salt.

* Goat displays aggressive postures or behavior to people when encountered on or off trail.

I think this advice should be taken by anyone who hikes in Glacier National Park as well, or anywhere else, for that matter, where mountain goats thrive. Last year I had a run-in with a mountain goat family on Quandary Peak in Colorado. Looking back now, those goats clearly demonstrated "unacceptable mountain goat behavior".

The first indication of aggresive behavior came when the largest male laid down on the trail as my wife and I approached from below, thus preventing us from proceeding forward. The only reason the ram started moving again was due to another group of hikers ascending the trail below us. This group also included a dog.

Although the goats were at least walking again, they stayed on or near the trail, not allowing us to pass. This went on for several minutes until another group of hikers approached from above, prompting the goats to finally move off the trail. At this point we were able to safely pass, and got about a quarter of a mile away from the goats when we decided to take a quick bathroom, food and drink break. Because we were on a fairly narrow ridge here, we were only just off the trail at this point.

After sitting down on a rock for a couple of minutes we noticed the goats moving again. The large male, the same ram that plopped down on the trail earlier, was making a direct bee line towards us. In a somewhat similar situation as the Olympic N.P. goring incident, I told my wife to get moving as quickly as possible. She was already up the trail when I was finally able to get my backpack together and hurriedly moved out as the goat got to within 75 feet of me. It was the last time we saw those goats.

Hiking in

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