Hikers urged to keep safe distance from goats

Submitted by

Mary Fanzel

With the hiking season well underway, the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness (FSPW) Goat Ambassador Program is in full swing. The snow has disappeared; the trail to Scotchman Peak is cleared of downed trees and is in great shape. This is also an outstanding year for beargrass — a “mass bloom” occurs once every five to 10 years and this is it! Before the meadows you will encounter amazing mountainsides full of the beautiful flower. The meadows are stunning. And once you break out of the trees onto the rocks you will most likely encounter mountain goats.

Working with the Forest Service and Idaho Department Fish & Game, FSPW organizes volunteers to hike Scotchman Peak Trail #65 every weekend and holiday from mid-June through mid-Oct. The goal is to educate the public on safe hiking practices in mountain goat country.

Between five and nine goats at a time have been sighted and reports have been overall positive regarding hiker knowledge and behavior. Unfortunately, few people still allow the goats to get within a few dangerous feet of them to get that “perfect” picture — one person recently posted a picture of themselves allowing a goat to lick them. FSPW and IDFG strongly discourage this practice! These are wild animals with sharp horns. (Both males and females). There are baby goats (kids) as well, and nannies can be very protective.

A bold nanny and a kid may be darling to look at but mom can get feisty when politely asked to leave. She will eventually, but we don’t want her to become any more habituated to humans.

A goat stomping its hoof is usually the first sign it’s getting agitated. Our Ambassadors encourage hikers to yell, knock their hiking poles together and if all else fails, toss rocks at the goat’s feet. We want people to enjoy the goats, but at a safe distance of at least 100 feet and ideally 150 feet or more.

We had Librarian’s Weekend on Scotchman recenlty when our volunteers were librarians both days.  There were reports from other hikers of a constant “shhhhh” over the mountain. They wrote the most detailed and humorous reports ever (but to be fair, ALL the reports this year have been excellent)!

We’d like to thank all of our Ambassadors that have hiked this year (in order of their hike): Kate Walker, Jason Smith, Susan Harbuck, Suzanne Davis, Diane Brockway, Francine Mejia & Erick Berntsten, Cate Huisman, Susan Conway-Kean, Ken Thacker and Bonnie Jakubos, Don Otis and Dr. Mark Cochran. There are many more in the coming months and most of the stellar volunteers listed here are hiking the trail again this summer as Goat Ambassadors.

Basic rules of interaction with goats:

n Don’t feed them anything.

n Don’t urinate on or near the trail (good practice whether goats are present or not).

n If a goat approaches you and can’t be dissuaded, it’s up to the human to retreat.

n Don’t leave your pack unattended. The goats will chew the straps in search of salt.

n Be polite and respectful of all wildlife.

The goats, Forest Service, IDFG and Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness thank you!