A friend of the Port Angeles man fatally injured by a mountain goat in Olympic National Park on Saturday says the animal that killed Robert Boardman was "a rogue goat that someone should have done something about sooner."
A friend of the Port Angeles man fatally injured by a mountain goat in Olympic National Park on Saturday says the animal that killed Robert Boardman was “a rogue goat that someone should have done something about sooner.”
Tim McNulty, of Sequim, said hikers have repeatedly described a particularly aggressive male goat intimidating people on the Switchback Trail near Klahhane Ridge. “He’s a very aggressive billy, a male, who blocks the trail, approaches people and doesn’t want to take ‘no’ for an answer,” McNulty said Monday.
Another friend of the victim, Tom Bihn, of Port Angeles, said he personally had several unsettling encounters with the goat he believes injured Boardman, 63. “He aggressively charged toward me,” said Bihn. “He charges up to you, stops six to 12 feet away, snorts and scratches the ground to indicate he’s in charge.”
Park officials acknowledge that the goat that gored Boardman in the thigh and then stood over him to prevent others from coming to his aid was among several goats which, over the past four years, have become increasingly aggressive.
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“We were aware of visitor reports coming in that a goat wouldn’t get off the trail, or that a goat followed someone,” said park spokeswoman Barb Maynes.
Rangers have shot nonlethal firecrackers and beanbag rounds at the animals to discourage them from approaching people, Maynes said. But she said, “Nothing led us to believe it was appropriate to take the next level, of removal.”
“This is a huge tragedy.” Maynes said. “Mr. Boardman was someone well-known in our community. This is something we’re taking extremely seriously.”
Maynes said this is believed to have been the first time someone was fatally injured by an animal in the history of the park, which was established in 1938.
Rangers shot the goat after finding blood on it and determining it was the animal that injured Boardman. A necropsy has been performed to see if the goat’s organs or tissue samples show any clue to the animal’s behavior, but the results are not expected for two weeks.
Park officials have posted signs at trailheads warning hikers to be watchful of all goats and to stay at least 100 feet from the animals. Hikers are also warned not to urinate on or near the trail because goats are attracted to the salt.
Maynes said rangers are still gathering information about what led to Boardman’s death.
Boardman had been hiking with his wife and a friend, and had stopped for lunch at an overlook when the goat began acting aggressively toward them, the Peninsula Daily News reported. He urged the others to head down the trail while he tried to get rid of the goat.
Margaret Bangs, a local doctor, told the newspaper that she saw Boardman’s wife and friend just before the incident, and they warned her not to go up because of problems with the goat.
“I looked up, and you could see him [Boardman] with two walking sticks and that goat following, just breathing down his neck,” she said.
Nobody saw the attack, but hikers who came upon the group after Boardman was injured radioed for help. It took nearly an hour before rescuers could reach Boardman because the goat stood over him as he lay motionless on the ground.
He eventually was airlifted by Coast Guard helicopter to a hospital in Port Angeles, where he was pronounced dead.
Mountain goats are not native to the Olympic park area, and their presence has been a subject of controversy before.
The estimated 300 goats in the park now are believed to be descendants of 20 brought there in the 1920s, possibly to draw hunters.
In the 1960s, concerns were raised about damage the rapidly growing goat population was doing to fragile mountain vegetation and terrain.
With the park’s goat population estimated at 1,200 in the 1980s, the Park Service began relocating goats to the Cascades. About 400 were moved before the agency concluded the remaining goats were living on higher slopes and too dangerous to capture.
In the mid-1990s, a draft report recommended the goats be shot from helicopters. But the prospect triggered a petition drive among animal-rights supporters, and the proposal was dropped.
Starting Tuesday, wildlife biologists and rangers will be patrolling in the area where Boardman was attacked to observe how goats there react to the presence of humans. But Maynes said it’s too early to speculate what action might be taken as a result.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org