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Saturday, November 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Outdoors blog

Scotchman Peak mountain goats threatened by thoughtless hikers

HIKING -- Mountain goats are icons on Scotchman Peak, luring hikers up the 3.5-mile trail northeast of Clark Fork, Idaho, to be in the realm of the usually docile white-coated animals overlooking Lake Pend Oreille.

But some hikers continue to act poorly around the goats, ignoring the signs posted at the trailhead and the educational effort to prevent the elimination of the goats.

Already people have forgotten or choose to ignore that the trail was closed two years ago after two hikers were injured by goats habituated by thoughtless hikers who had previously offered the animals food or a chance to lick sweat of their packs or bodies.

Lethal removal was considered by state and federal agencies.

Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness said they would lead an education effort instead.

Basic rules of interaction with goats:
  1. Don't feed them anything.
  2. Don't urinate on or near the trail (good practice whether goats are present or not).
  3. If a goat approaches you and can't be dissuaded, it's up to the human to retreat.
  4. Don't leave your pack unattended. The goats will chew the straps in search of salt.
  5. Be polite and respectful of all wildlife.

But people apparently still want photos of mountain goats licking their friends as though Scotchman is a petting zoo.

The hiker who offered the photos above told me she felt bad that she had not read the signs before succumbing to the selfish temptation to let a goat lick  her legs and the skin and packs of friends during a hike last week.  The photos are posted on Facebook and used here by permission. Another photo shows the goat being allowed to lick the sweat off a hiking pole handle.

It's guaranteed that this goat will be a pain in the butt to hikers who follow.

Scotchman Peak or other places with mountain goats are NOT petting zoos.  Giving animals handouts can have unforseen consequences.

Will ignoring this fact lead to posting pictures of a dead goat Idaho Fish and Game officers may have to kill after it gores a hiker for not getting what it desires?

This is reality: Olympic National Park is proposing the elimination of mountain goats partly for human safety, partly because of the goring death of a hiker that resulted in a $10 million lawsuit against the park.

The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness has been leading the educational effort for years to gently persuade hikers to behave properly to assure a sustainable relationship between people and goats on the peak.  

Rather than attracting goats, friends group executive director Phil Hough recommends practicing "goat aversion" therapy"  -- making loud noises even tossing small rocks in their direction, so THE GOATS stay away.

"Goats aren't tame," he said. "They are wild animals addicted to salt and willing to set aside their fear of humans to get salt. Unfortunately, no amount of education seems to deter all humans from their 'selfie' addiction, in which they set aside good sense and judgment for photo."

Following is a plea and tips from Mary Franzel, the friends group's mountain goat education coordinator who has organized the Goat Ambassador Program this year to schedule volunteers on the peak most weekends this summer for public education.

Please read what she has to say and share with friends who hike into goat country:

Friends of Scotchman Peaks urge hikers to view goats from a safe distance.

FSPW Goat Ambassadors work to keep both goats and hiking public safe. 
With the hiking season well underway, the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness (FSPW) Goat Ambassador Program is in full swing. The snow has disappeared; the trail to Scotchman Peak is cleared of downed trees and is in great shape. This is also an outstanding year for beargrass — a “mass bloom” occurs once every five to 10 years and this is it! Before the meadows you will encounter amazing mountainsides full of the beautiful flower. The meadows are stunning. And once you break out of the trees onto the rocks you will most likely encounter mountain goats.
 
Working with the Forest Service and Idaho Department Fish & Game, FSPW organizes volunteers to hike Scotchman Peak Trail #65 every weekend and holiday from mid-June through mid-Oct. The goal is to educate the public on safe hiking practices in mountain goat country.
 
Between five and nine goats at a time have been sighted and reports have been overall positive regarding hiker knowledge and behavior. Unfortunately, few people still allow the goats to get within a few dangerous feet of them to get that “perfect” picture — one person recently posted a picture of themselves allowing a goat to lick them. FSPW and IDFG strongly discourage this practice! These are wild animals with sharp horns. (Both males and females). There are baby goats (kids) as well, and nannies can be very protective.
A bold nanny and a kid may be darling to look at but mom can get feisty when politely asked to leave. She will eventually, but we don’t want her to become any more habituated to humans.
 
A goat stomping its hoof is usually the first sign it’s getting agitated. Our Ambassadors encourage hikers to yell, knock their hiking poles together and if all else fails, toss rocks at the goat’s feet. We want people to enjoy the goats, but at a safe distance of at least 100 feet and ideally 150 feet or more. 
 
We had Librarian’s Weekend on Scotchman recently when our volunteers were librarians both days.  There were reports from other hikers of a constant “shhhhh” over the mountain. They wrote the most detailed and humorous reports ever (but to be fair, ALL the reports this year have been excellent)!
 
We’d like to thank all of our Ambassadors that have hiked this year (in order of their hike): Kate Walker, Jason Smith, Susan Harbuck, Suzanne Davis, Diane Brockway, Francine Mejia & Erick Berntsten, Cate Huisman, Susan Conway-Kean, Ken Thacker and Bonnie Jakubos, Don Otis and Dr. Mark Cochran. There are many more in the coming months and most of the stellar volunteers listed here are hiking the trail again this summer as Goat Ambassadors.
 
Basic rules of interaction with goats:
  1. Don't feed them anything.
  2. Don't urinate on or near the trail (good practice whether goats are present or not).
  3. If a goat approaches you and can't be dissuaded, it's up to the human to retreat.
  4. Don't leave your pack unattended. The goats will chew the straps in search of salt.
  5. Be polite and respectful of all wildlife.

The goats, Forest Service, IDFG and Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness thank you!



Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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