A male mountain goat, or billy, in Olympic National Park, specifically along Klahanie Ridge near Hurricane Ridge, attacked and killed a 63-year-old man from Port Angeles last weekend. The exact method and cause of his death have not been published, but as the story unfolded, it was revealed that the man was gored in or about one of his thighs. It was also revealed that the Park knew that particular billy had been a problem in recent weeks.
We would like to extend our condolences to the family of this man.
From my very first close contact with mountain goats, I was… wary of their sharp, pointy horns. I recall still the stern glance the nanny gave me as I started to stand up. Grateful for the opportunity she was giving me to shoot close pictures of both her and her offspring, I didn’t press the issue of verticality, but stayed seated until they moved off. Although the tips of her horns came only about up to my crotch, I figured there was a lot in that region I wanted to protect. Not just the obvious, but the femoral artery sits at the front of the top of the thigh. She might’ve only weighed 100 pounds or so, but her center of gravity was about a foot off the ground. Billies are substantially larger; the murderous one in question topped the scales at 350 pounds, after he, too, was murdered, to learn if his aggressive behavior was the result of disease. The necropsy revealed no disease; it did reveal, though, that he had gone into rut, which would account for the aggressive behavior.
When the autopsy on the fellow is completed, I won’t be the least surprised if his femoral artery was punctured or severed. At any rate, when you’ve got a 350-pound hooved beast with sharp horns, a mad-on for you, and a center of gravity not much different from that of a wild boar, it can all go very wrong very fast in so many ways. I expect that people who have seen my goat pics over the years will express their concern for my safety.
In years past, the only mountain goats I ever saw were 500 yards away and moving even further away with all haste. Lately, though, they are becoming more and more likely to be seen hanging around the edge of camp, downwind, and waiting attentively for someone to take a leak. At which point they scurry in and hoover it up. I’ve talked to people who have referred to the goats as “nuisances,” literally getting underfoot to reach fresh urine. They seem to have lost all healthy fear of humans, and I’m not going to stop pissing in the woods. There are frightfully few ways to reestablish that healthy fear, most come with the dividend of a gorgeous white rug….
In all my close encounters with wildlife, I’ve always allowed them to control the contact. Except for the deer mouse that ran across my face that I chased round and round inside my tent two weeks ago, trying to smash it with my fist, until I considered that if I really wanted to contract the hantavirus, pulverizing one of the little fuckers with my fist inside my tent was probably not a good idea. Dear mouse agreed.