PORT ANGELES — Several reports of aggressive mountain goats have prompted Olympic National Forest officials to close a popular trail on Mount Ellinor for at least two weeks.
The emergency closure affects both the upper and lower portions of Mount Ellinor Trail No. 812, KING-TV reported.
Stephanie Neil, recreation manager for the forest’s Hood Canal Ranger District, told the Peninsula Daily News that in the last two weeks rangers have received a number of reports of goats coming within 10 feet of hikers.
“Nobody has been hurt by the goats,” she said. “But a number of people have felt threatened.”
Forest rangers will re-evaluate the closure in about two weeks, Neil said.
“We want to keep the closure as short as possible,” she said. “But we also want people to be safe.”
While mountain goats are powerful and inquisitive they aren’t generally aggressive, said Kurt Aluzas, a wildlife biologist. He told KING that the recent behavior is likely related to this year’s deep snowpack that has confined the goats to trailside areas close to people. There’s also the possibility that female goats are protecting their young.
The trail provides sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. The trailhead is about 18 miles northwest of Hoodsport.
Violating the order could bring a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and six months in jail.
In 2010, a 63-year-old hiker, Robert Boardman, was fatally gored by a mountain goat in Olympic National Park. A park ranger fatally shot the goat.
That attack happened about 75 miles northeast of Mount Ellinor. Boardman’s widow and stepson have filed suit against the National Park Service.
The federal government has denied it was negligent in Boardman’s death and said his family is not entitled to damages.
There are no current trail closures in Olympic National Park because of mountain goat activity, Neil said.