Ranger kills persistent mountain goat in Olympic National Park

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — A ranger killed a mountain goat that had followed campers and refused to leave a campsite earlier this week.

The goat, which weighed between 275 and 300 pounds, was killed by an Olympic National Park ranger Tuesday afternoon, three days after 15 to 20 Labor Day weekend campers were told to leave an area the goat was occupying at the Upper Royal Basin near the park's eastern boundary.

The campers left the designated backcountry section of the park Saturday morning after the goat would not budge from a campsite, park spokesman Dave Reynolds said late Wednesday.

The animal stayed put for three days, even after park rangers shot it with paintballs.

It was shot dead with a rifle Tuesday afternoon, Reynolds said.

It was the second aggressive goat that a ranger has killed in the park since Oct. 16, when an estimated 370-pound mountain goat was shot dead after it fatally gored Bob Boardman, 63, of Port Angeles.

“After closely monitoring the goat's behavior over several days, we determined lethal removal to be the appropriate action in this situation,” Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin said in a statement.

The park considered capturing, then relocating, the mature adult male, “but this animal had been unresponsive to persistent hazing and clearly showed signs of habituation,” Gustin said.

Killing the goat was necessary “to protect the safety of park visitors,” Gustin said.

According to an email from one of the campers, the goat appeared at about 9:30 a.m. Saturday near the campers' group, then walked within 5 feet of them, said Reynolds, who would not release the camper's name or the email.

The goat was also lowering its head and moving it back and forth in an aggressive manner, Reynolds said.

Reynolds said the animal followed the campers “persistently” up a trail, then moved into their campsite.

A camper reported the aggressive behavior to park officials by radio transmission, Reynolds said.

Park rangers told about three or four groups of campers totaling about 15 to 20 people to leave Saturday morning.

Reynolds did not know if children were present.

Park rangers then began hazing the animal with “aversive conditioning” by shooting it with the paintballs, Reynolds said.

“It was unfazed,” Reynolds said.

“Live capture was considered, but we already knew this goat was not going to be affected by these hazing practices,” Reynolds continued.

“Relocating elsewhere in the park would lead to similar situations at another time for another group of campers.”

The rangers were following guidelines outlined in the park's Mountain Goat Action Plan, released in June, Reynolds said.

The decision to dispatch the animal was made, as outlined in the action plan, after the goat proved “unresponsive to aversive conditioning over a period of days,” Reynolds said.

There had been persistent reports of a large goat harassing campers on Switchback Trail on Hurricane Ridge before Boardman was killed.

But park officials said they could not tell if it was the same animal that gored Boardman, who had complained of a large goat harassing hikers in the area.

Wrongful-death and personal-injury claims totaling $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.

Lawyer John Messina of Tacoma, representing Chadd, her son and Boardman's estate, has alleged the park was negligent in not getting rid of the goat earlier and has said a lawsuit against the park is “imminent.”

Goats are a non-native species in the park, having been introduced as hunters' prey in the 1920s to an area at Lake Crescent that would become the park in 1938.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: September 07. 2011 10:54PM
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