When I was hiking at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park this summer, we encountered a trail sign warning us about an aggressive mountain goat that was in the area. We laughed at the idea. The goats seem relatively benign and I've only seen them from a great distance, white specks on far ridges. Nevertheless, we kept our eyes open. We did see a black bear off on an alpine meadow sitting in a pool of cool water, but nothing scarier than that.
So I was shocked to read that a Hurricane Ridge hiker was killed in a mountain goat attack while hiking on the Klahhane Ridge trail. Out for a beautiful weekend hike with friends, a man named Bob Boardman was gored by a goat and died before help could arrive. Here's the account from the Peninsula Daily News:
Boardman, 63, his wife, Susan Chadd, and their friend, Pat Willits, had gone for a day hike on the Switchback Trail to Klahhane Ridge, which is near Hurricane Ridge about 17 miles south of Port Angeles. The three had stopped for lunch at an overlook when a goat appeared and moved toward them, said Jessica Baccus, who arrived on the scene at about 1:20 p.m.
Baccus, also out for a day hike with her husband and their children, saw Willits, her longtime friend, coming up the trail. Willits told Baccus that when the goat had begun behaving aggressively, Boardman had urged her and Chadd to leave the scene. Then Boardman, an experienced hiker, tried to carefully shoo the ram away.
Willits told Baccus that although Boardman tried also to leave, the goat attacked him, goring him in the thigh. "Nobody saw what actually happened. They heard Bob yell," Baccus said. The goat stayed, standing over Boardman, who lay on the ground bleeding.
I'm not sure if this is unprecedented in Olympic Park, though the paper reports that no one had heard of a similar incident. The mountain goats are an introduced species there. They are known to show aggressive behavior toward each other during mating season, when protecting their young, and their horns protect them against predators. But I've never heard of another fatal attack. I quickly checked my copy of Dangerous to Man, Roger Caras' "definitive" 1960s study of wild animal attacks, but couldn't find any examples, fatal or otherwise, of mountain goats attacking humans.
The Klahhane Ridge mountain goat was later tracked and shot and will be studied.
Hikers face many risks, from bears to falls to getting lost, but this seems like an unexpected one, despite the warning signs.