By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Bob Boardman complained to Olympic National Park about an aggressive mountain goat at Klahhane Ridge several times before he was gored to death by a goat there.
Park officials said there’s no way to know if his complaints were about the same mountain goat that killed him.
Wrongful death and personal injury claims totalling $10,022,700 have been made against the park over Boardman’s death by his estate; his widow, Susan Chadd of Port Angeles; and her son, Jacob Haverfield.
Their lawyer, personal injury attorney John Messina of Tacoma, said a full-blown lawsuit may be imminent in federal District Court in Tacoma.
Messina said he does not expect to be engaged in serious negotiations with the park or for a resolution to be reached by Nov. 1, the deadline for the park to answer the claims.
Boardman, a registered nurse, diabetes educator and musician, was 63 when a 370-pound mountain goat gored him in the thigh during a hike on Switchback Trail on Klahhane Ridge on Oct. 16.
Boardman died of blood loss.
Pat Willits — a friend of Boardman and Chadd who was with them on the hike when Boardman was gored — told park officials Boardman “had had some unsettling encounters with aggressive goats in the past,” according to Olympic National Park records obtained by the Peninsula Daily News under a Freedom of Information Act request.
Chadd told park Ranger Michael Danisiewicz that “she couldn’t understand why the park hadn’t taken action with this goat,” according to Danisiewicz’s supplemental incident report.
“She said Bob had contacted the park several times because of the goat’s aggressive nature.”
In addition, according to Chief Ranger Colin Smith’s report on the incident, “the goat had exhibited aggressive behavior in the past, including following visitors, blocking the trail and rearing up.”
Park Ranger Sanny Lustig also said she “had seen it many times and hazed it on several occasions.”
Park officials insist there is no way to tell if the same mountain goat Boardman warned officials about is the same one that gored him.
“We receive lots of reports on goats,” Smith said Friday.
“We could not identify for sure what goat each time was being referred to.”
Added park wildlife biologist Patty Happe: “Because the animal was not marked, we don’t know which animal it was with certainty.”
The park’s revised Mountain Goat Action Plan, released July 7, also discusses mountain goat activity in the Switchback Trail area of Klahhane Ridge.
Park officials revised the plan in response to Boardman’s death, Happe said.
“There was a history of habituated goats in the area for over five years, with reports of a large male goat (or goats) not yielding way to, following, and occasionally being aggressive to hikers for over three years,” the plan says.
Chadd said in an interview that she couldn’t be sure the mountain goat that her husband had contacted the park about was the same one that killed him.
Her brother, Ed Chadd of Port Angeles, suggested the distinctions were meaningless.
“It’s not up to me to know if there were two aggressive goats” on Klahhane Ridge, he said.
“It’s up to the park to know if there were two aggressive goats.”
The average adult male mountain goat is 242 pounds compared with the 370 pounds this goat weighed, Happe said.
“He was way heavier than the average adult male,” she said, adding the goat was 8 years old compared with the average adult male, which is 3.
“He was a big goat. He was very, very fat.”
Messina said mountain goats should be destroyed when they start exhibiting aggressive behavior.
“This is a non-native species and, as such, they don’t deserve protection and care as to the native species of animals,” he said.
“You don’t want this animal to reproduce, given his size,” he added.
“The bottom line is this should never have happened because this goat should have never been allowed to survive.”
Messina said the action plan, which expands the option to shoot mountain goats if they are overly aggressive, is “insufficient.”
It calls for two-week trail closures and for destruction of the animals if they attack, make contact, corner or “make egress impossible” for hikers.
The plan also warns park visitors not to urinate along trails frequented by mountain goats to avoid turning trails into “long, linear salt licks” that would attract the goats.
“I don’t think the plan would have eliminated this goat prior to this attack on Bob, and if that’s the case, the plan is insufficient,” Messina said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.