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Family Of Gored Hiker Sues National Parks Service

Sara Lerner

A year ago, a man was hiking with his wife and a friend in Olympic National Park when a mountain goat attacked him. He died from his injuries. Now, the man's wife and stepson are suing the National Parks Service. KUOW's Sara Lerner reports.


Much of the legal complaint centers on the fact that mountain goats are not native in Olympic National Park. Here's the family's attorney, John Messina.

Messina: "A National Park is an enclave that is created by the government for use of people left in its native state. Well, the native state did not include mountain goats."

Non–native animals don't have as much protection in National Parks as native ones. In fact, in the 90s, park officials recommended shooting the mountain goats to get rid of them because they were devouring threatened plants. That option met opposition from many,including animal rights groups, and the mountain goats stayed.

Robert Boardman was from Port Angeles. Last year, before Boardman's death, John Messina says that particular mountain goat was identified by Olympic National Park rangers as aggressive. A detailed report from the park backs that up. Messina says the Park Service violated its own policy by not removing the goat.

Messina: "We're not talking about protecting people from all the goats. We're not talking about guards and people walking around, patrolling areas. We're talking about a specific animal that had a record of being habituated and dangerous and aggressive towards human beings. When you identify an animal like that, he's gone."

After Boardman's death, parks staff located the goat and killed it. The US Department of the Interior, though, rejects the claims against it. In its response to Messina, officials say they investigated the matter, and they find no evidence of negligence on the part of Parks Service employees.

After Boardman's death, Olympic National Park released a comprehensive plan on mountain goats. It outlines ways to keep mountain goats from getting habituated to humans. Parks staff should stay away from mountain goats, and hikers should walk at least 200 feet away from the trail to urinate.

I'm Sara Lerner, KUOW News.

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