By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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“We've seen an increase in the number of reports in July compared to previous months,” Rainey McKenna, Olympic National Park spokeswoman, said Thursday.
“We don't have anyone reporting injuries or reporting incidents, but we are seeing increases of visitors encountering goats along the trails.”
Bob Boardman, a Port Angeles man, was gored to death Oct. 16, 2010, by a mountain goat on Klahhane Ridge while hiking with his wife, Susan Chadd, and their friend Pat Willits of Port Angeles.
Boardman's death was the first fatal animal attack in the park since it was established in 1938.
Rangers killed the aggressive goat later that day.
In July, McKenna said goats have been seen on popular trails in the Hurricane Ridge, Royal Basin, Seven Lakes Basin, Lake of the Angeles and Grand Pass areas.
These saw droves of people last month.
“It's one of the busiest Julys we've had on record,” McKenna said.
National Park Service officials are preparing an environmental impact statement for a proposed plan to manage populations of the non-native mountain goats in Olympic National Park.
Mountain goats were introduced into the Olympic Mountains from Alaska for hunters in the 1920s.
The National Park Service is evaluating preliminary options, including capturing and relocating the goats to the Washington Cascades, increasing hazing activities, killing them, doing nothing or some combination of those approaches.
Public comments on preliminary alternative concepts for managing the goat population are being accepted until 11 p.m. Sept. 19.
Populations on rise
Goat populations have increased in the park since 2004, McKenna said, with a 2011 census showing the population increased by about 5 percent per year between 2004 and 2011.
Park staff, however, cannot confirm that this growth rate has been maintained since 2011, McKenna said, since 2011 was the year of the most recent census.
McKenna said park officials are planning to conduct another survey within the next two to four years.
The most current estimates say the park's goat population is between 300 and 400 animals, McKenna said.
Park regulations require that visitors stay at least 50 yards, or half a football field, away from mountain goats and all other wildlife while in the park, McKenna said.
Feeding any wildlife is strictly prohibited, McKenna added, as it can make them more likely to seek out people.
Visitors are required to move away from wildlife if the animals approach to maintain the minimum distance, she said.
While sometimes appearing docile, mountain goats are powerful animals with sharp horns that could severely injure or kill people, McKenna said.
“If [a] goat persists in following the visitor, [the visitors] are encouraged to chase them off by yelling, waving their arms or clothes [and] throwing rocks,” she said.
After Boardman's death, his wife unsuccessfully sued the federal government in Western District Court for allegedly failing to deal in a timely manner with the goat.
Chadd appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, with her lawyer, Stephen Bulzomi of Tacoma, telling the Peninsula Daily News in late July that a decision on the appeal was pending.
More information on how to stay safe around wildlife is at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-WildlifeSafety.
A notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement ran in the Federal Register in July.
More information, including the purpose and need for the plan, its objectives and preliminary alternative concepts, can be found at http://tinyurl.com/PDNgoatplan. Comments can be submitted on the site.
A North Olympic Peninsula workshop is set from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St.
Comments also can be mailed to Superintendent, Olympic National Park, 600 E. Park Ave., Port Angeles, WA 98362.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb contributed to this report.