Olympic National Forest’s Mount Ellinor Trail remains closed due to concerns about human-goat interactions.
The trail was closed as a precautionary measure to ensure public safety in July when four separate hiking parties reported encounters with aggressive mountain goats.
The goats have grown habituated to people and are inappropriately assertive in their efforts to obtain food and salt from humans.
Wildlife specialists from Olympic National Forest have been working closely with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympic National Park, and mountain goat experts to monitor the situation and determine appropriate actions. Their goal is to reopen the popular trail as soon as possible, but public safety is the first consideration.
Since the closure, the goats have been monitored regularly. Up to 20 goats have been observed in the area, including seven kids. A high degree of human-habituation and evidence that the goats are obtaining food and or salts from people has been observed.
A comprehensive, science-based plan for managing the human-mountain goat conflicts is being developed. The plan addresses goat numbers, distribution, and behavior.
An aversive conditioning plan designed to discourage the goats from approaching people is also being implemented; the plan includes throwing rocks, sounding horns, spraying chemical deterrents and marking them with projectiles.
Acting Forest Supervisor Amanda McAdams stated, “We will reopen the trail as soon as it is safe but we need to give our strategy time to work. People need to become a part of the solution and not the problem; they can do this by not feeding the goats or allowing them to lick salt from their skin or backpacks.”
Public education is critical since humans can encourage or discourage the goats from their actions, she said.
“Co-existence is a two-way street. We want people to keep the goats wild. The goats also need to be taught to respect our personal space and not to approach people,” McAdams said.
For more information, please contact the Hood Canal Ranger District at 360-765-2200.
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