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Salt-Loving Mountain Goats Causing Mayhem In Northwest Ranges

Anna King


RICHLAND, Wash. – Wildlife officials and park managers are refining a better strategy to keep aggressive mountain goats at bay. Billy goats are getting the goat of hikers in several Northwest mountain ranges.

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.

He says in his research he's seen goats walk up to 20 miles for natural salt sources. Rice says 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, Rice says, "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."

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.

On the Web:

NPS mountain goat action plan:

Mountain goats in North Cascades NP: