What to Do if You See a Mountain Goat on the Trail

Mountain goats don't have the same flight response to humans as many animals and they crave salt. Be safe with our five guidelines for goat encounters.

While Dave Peck was hiking the Klahanie Ridge Loop in Olympic National Park, some mountain goats caught him off guard. Luckily he was a safe distance and shot the video above. Another hiker was not so fortunate. In 2010, a man was gored to death by a 370-pound, aggressive goat.

Mountain goats don’t have the same “flight” response to humans as many other animals. They protect themselves by staying on steep terrain, so if you meet a goat on the trail, it won’t immediately react by running away. It doesn’t feel threatened by people.

Another reason that mountain goats may approach you is that they have a taste for salt. Humans deposit salt on their clothing as they sweat. Salt is also in urine. Goats will especially seek out salt in late spring and early summer.

Mountain goat on a rocky ledge. Photo by John Williams
Mountain goat on a rocky ledge. It’s still wearing most of its winter coat. Photo by John WilliamsJohn Williams

The National Park Service staff observe wildlife behavior and record interactions with park visitors, say Patti Happe and Kurt Aluzas, Wildlife Biologists at Olympic National Park. We pay special attention on how close mountain goats come in proximity to people.

To keep these animals wild, the National Park requests that you keep your distance and stay at least 50 yards away from them (half the length of a football field). Never surround, crowd, chase or follow a mountain goat.

Sometimes on steep, narrow mountain trails it can be harrowing to meet up with a large, horned goat. There may be nowhere for you to go to avoid the animal so it is important that you stand your ground and shoo the animal off. This works most of the year, but if you encounter a billy goat during the fall rutting season, its first instinct may be to defend its territory. In this case, don’t “goat” it on, instead walk away.

Rules to Hiking Safely Among Goats

Rich Harris, Wildlife Biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recommends these five guidelines while you are hiking in mountain goat country.

1. Don’t feed mountain goats or any wild animals.

2. Avoid allowing goats to lick salt, either from your body, clothing, or pack.

3. Urinate off the trail so that the trail doesn’t become an attractant for the goats.

4. In summer, when a goat approaches you in an insistent way, stand your ground, yell, wave your arms, and try to shoo the goat away.

5. In autumn, when a goat approaches you in an aggressive way, especially if it is male goat, give it as much space as you can. Don’t challenge it. It may see you as a competitor for mates.

Report Aggressive Mountain Goat Encounters

In an emergency, call 911

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife
To report a non-emergency, call (877) 933-9847