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NW officials: Keep your distance from mountain goats

courtesy of Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife

RICHLAND, Wash. –Wild life officials and park managers are refining a better strategy to keep aggressive mountain goats at bay, but steering clear of goats is a good first step.

A hiker was gored to death by a big mountain goat in the Olympic National Park last fall. And just recently, Wenatchee National Forest rangers fielded multiple complaints about an aggressive goat in the hills near Ellensburg.

The problem is that goats see hikers as walking salt licks. So says Cliff Rice, a research scientist with Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Rice says in his research he’s seen goats walk up to 20 miles for natural salt sources. The goats associate hikers with urine spots or salty snacks where they might get extra minerals a bit easier. Because humans are in the mountains in large numbers.

“… the mountain goats become quite tolerant and used to people. And they get used to getting close to humans to get at those sodium sources,” Rice said.

Billy goats are more apt to be aggressive than the nanny, or female, goats he says. Fish and Wildlife and forestry officials are discussing a possible plan to put salt licks for the goats in spots away from popular recreation areas.

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Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.