HOODSPORT, Wash. — Olympic National Forest has closed a trail near Hoodsport for two weeks because of aggressive mountain goats.
The forest says there were several encounters this week with aggressive goats on the Mount Ellinor Trail, 18 miles northwest of Hoodsport.
The trail will be monitored, but there are no plans now to kill the animals.
“Nobody has been hurt by the goats. But a number of people have felt threatened,” said Stephanie Neil, recreation manager for the Hood Canal Ranger District of Olympic National Forest. She told the Peninsula Daily News that rangers have heard a number of reports over the past two weeks.
She said Tuesday that rangers will re-evaluate the closures in about two weeks.
“We want to keep the closure as short as possible, but we also want people to be safe,” Neil said.
Wildlife biologist Kurt Aluzas said the goats may be on the trails because of this year’s deep snowpack. Goats are also drawn to hiking trails seeking salt, and nanny goats may be aggressive protecting their young.
Violating the closure order could bring a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and six months in jail.
In October 2010, an aggressive goat killed a Port Angeles man in Olympic National Park. That goat was killed by a ranger. The victim’s widow and stepson have filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service. The federal government has denied it was negligent in the 2010 death of Boardman and said his family is not entitled to damages.
It was the first fatal animal attack in the history of Olympic National Park, which was established in 1938.
Mount Ellinor is in the Mount Skokomish Wilderness. The trail provides sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. The trailhead is about 18 miles northwest of Hoodsport and about 25 miles north of Lake Cushman. Nearby Upper Big Creek and Mount Rose trails remain open.
Mike Stoican of Allyn said he was attacked and gored by a mountain goat near the summit of 5,944-foot Mount Ellinor.
“The doctor said I was very lucky,” Stoican told the Peninsula Daily News in 2010.
He said he was cut in the thigh by the mountain goat’s horns minutes after he left a group of friends on the top of Mount Ellinor. It missed the femoral artery by about an inch, he said.
In June 2011, Jim Decker of Shelton said he was hiking in a nearby area, on the Mount Rose trail near Lake Cushman, when he encountered a mountain goat that stalked him persistently before finally backing off.
There are about 2,000 to 3,000 mountain goats in Washington state. They have razor-sharp horns and hooves, and furry bodies covered by long, white hair. They were introduced into the Olympic Mountains from Alaska in the 1920s for hunters and about 400 mountain goats are in Olympic National Park.
After Boardman’s death, park rangers warned hikers to keep at least 50 yards away from goats and not to urinate on trails.
The park said the urine creates a long salt lick, attracting the animals.