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Scotchman Peak hiking trail closed due to aggressive goats

Mountain goats approach hikers on the summit of Scotchman Peak in 2013, apparently looking for food or salty packs or skin to lick. (File)
Mountain goats approach hikers on the summit of Scotchman Peak in 2013, apparently looking for food or salty packs or skin to lick. (File)

The popular trail to the summit of Scotchman Peak north of Clark Fork, Idaho, has been closed temporarily because of recent incidents with aggressive mountain goats, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests announced Friday.

The news is no surprise to groups that have been posting signs and trying to educate hikers for several years regarding the consequences of feeding the peak’s mountain goats and letting them lick hikers’ arms and legs for salt.

“The temporary closure is intended to allow time for the goats to find other sources of food beyond the handouts provided by hikers, and to reduce their willingness to approach humans,” said Jason Kirchner, forest spokesman.

The Forest Service is working with the Idaho Fish and Game Department to address the situation and improve public safety, he said.

The steep, 3 1/2-mile Trail 65, which just recently reopened after being closed in August by wildfire activity, is known for its expansive views over Lake Pend Oreille and frequent mountain goat sightings.  

“However, due to humans often enticing the goats to come close by offering food, or even allowing the goats to eat from their hands, the goats are becoming habituated to humans and occasionally are behaving aggressively in an attempt to obtain human foods,” the announcement said.

In June, a hiker was bitten by a goat and required multiple stitches, Kirchner said.

“Additionally, there have been numerous reports of goats attempting to head-butt or charge hikers, which could easily lead to a goring incident from a goat’s horns.”

In 2011, a hiker was gored to death by an aggressive mountain goat in Olympic National Park. The incident affected management of goats and other wildlife throughout the region.

No date has been scheduled for reopening the trail.

“Although this popular trail is closed there are numerous opportunities for hiking nearby and throughout the Idaho Panhandle National Forests,” Kirchner said.

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