A mountain goat that fatally gored a hiker in Olympic National Park was in the fevered state of rut, but otherwise seemed to be a healthy animal, according to necropsy results released Thursday.
With some test results outstanding, park officials still have no clear answer for why the mountain goat, which weighed about 350 pounds, attacked Robert Boardman on October 16 on a trail near Klahhane Ridge some 17 miles south of Port Angeles.
Mr. Boardman, 63, was protecting other hikers from the aggressive goat when it gored him in a leg, according to the investigation.
"Following the fatal encounter, the goat stood over Boardman until several visitors, including an off-duty National Park Service employee, succeeded in scaring off the goat," read a park statement issued Thursday. "First aid and CPR were administered at the scene and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter transported Boardman to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles where he was pronounced dead."
Shortly thereafter rangers tracked the goat and killed it. The carcass was sent to a veterinary pathologist in Monroe, Washington, and tissue samples also were analyzed by veterinary pathologists at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.
"A wide range of tests, including the initial visual examination during necropsy, followed by microscopic study of the major organs and a battery of diagnostic tests, has not revealed any signs of disease or other physical abnormality," the park statement read. "Tests for rabies virus, encephalitis virus, plague and tularemia revealed no evidence of these diseases. Salt concentrations in the animal’s urine were within normal limits. Tissue analysis showed that the goat was in breeding condition or 'rut.'
"Additional diagnostic tests for several diseases are still ongoing, including Listeria and chronic wasting disease, and several chemical assessments for key nutrients."
While Olympic rangers and wildlife biologists continued to monitor goat behavior in the Klahhane Ridge area daily after the incident, those patrols were suspended this week in the wake of a snowstorm that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on Hurricane Ridge.
"Up to eight goats were seen in a day; there were no observations of aggressive mountain goat behavior. Some goats appeared to be habituated to human presence, but quickly moved away when people yelled or waved their arms. Patrols will resume this fall if weather and snow conditions permit," the park said.
"Once winter weather begins, mountain goats typically move to their winter range, which varies from herd to herd. Winter range for goats in the Hurricane/Klahhane area is primarily along a rocky, windswept ridge north and east of Klahhane Ridge."
Olympic biologists also have been in contact with other wildlife biologists and wildlife management agencies to see if they might glean any insights into mountain goat-human interactions, and will incorporate what they've learned into the park's Nuisance and Hazardous Animal Plan, park officials said.