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Family of Man Killed By Mountain Goat in Olympic National Park Sues National Park Service


The family of a man gored to death by a mountain goat in Olympic National Park a year ago has sued the National Park Service for wrongful death, arguing the park staff knew the animal was a danger to hikers but failed to do anything about it.

Bob Boardman, of Port Angeles, Washington, was gored Oct. 16, 2010, on a trail near
Klahhane Ridge some 17 miles south of Port Angeles. The 63-year-old was protecting other hikers from a goat, estimated at 370 pounds, when it gored him in the thigh and then reportedly stood over him as he bled to death.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Washington, after the Interior Department earlier this fall rejected a $10 million wrongful death claim brought by Mr. Boardman's wife, Susan Chadd, and stepson, Jacob Haverfield.

"Our investigation of Mr. Boardman’s death found that the Park Service knew this animal was dangerous, documented that this animal was dangerous, and a clear threat to hikers and Park Service staff for nearly four years,” said John Messina, lead attorney on the case with the Tacoma, Washington, law firm of Messina Bulzomi Christensen. "The Park Service failed to follow its own policies to remove dangerous animals from the park. Their failure to act and either remove or kill this animal according to park policy contributed to Mr. Boardman’s preventable death.”

Mr. Messina also noted in a release posted on the law firm's website that Olympic National Park staff have in the past killed animals, such as elk, that posed a threat to the public.

An investigation into the park's handling of the case by the law firm turned up documentation that the goat, known locally as "Klahhane Billy," had established a pattern of "aggressive behavior towards Park Service employees, experienced hikers, Boy Scout troops, (and) families with children."

While the park staff took various approaches to instill a fear of humans into the goat, including shooting bean bags at it and paint balls so it could be tracked, none worked, the law firm alleged. "At one point in 2009, the Park Service discussed more aggressive steps to protect the public from the goat, yet failed to follow through."

The law firm has requested a bench trial.


I thought it was illegal to carry guns, even licensed ones, into State Parks.

It wasn't the parks fault at all. This is a horrible tragedy but the family needs to realize it was a wild animal, it's a national park not a theme park. Get over it and move on, this lawsuit is ridiculous. It's one of the risks you take when going into the wild.

This comment was edited to remove an affront to Subaru owners everywhere. -- Ed.

I would not recommend using trekking poles to drive away a mountain goat, bear, elk, deer, etc.

That type of argument "should" not under any cercomstances carry the argument, I believe. Where would it stop in making wild places and wildlife safe for sue happy visitors.  It's part of the culture decline in finding fault with someone or some agency for their own lack of accountability.   One of the culture changes that has threads to any number of abuses and consequences.  
Owen, what would be your answer to the problem?

We hiked that trail 3 months prior to the incident.  We saw the warning sign about the goat at the trailhead.  We made the decision to do the hike anyway.  We carried trekking poles which we could have used to drive away the goat if needed.  Every account of the incident reports that the victim left his group and that there were no witnesses to the attack.  One question that comes to mind is:  Why did he leave the safety of his group?  Also, what was he doing when the goat attacked?  Did he provoke it?  Since no one witnessed the attack, we will never know.  It's a terrible thing and I am sad for the friends and relatives of the victim.  However, filing a lawsuit isn't going to bring him back.  Any times someone sues "the government", they are actually suing the taxpayers, who will no doubt be on the hook for legal fees regardless of the outcome.  National parks are not petting zoos and when people make the choice to venture into the mountains the chance of encountering wild animals is always there.  It defies common sense to think that the taxpayers should pay a large sum of money to the relatives of a man who made the decision to hike on a trail with warning signs, chose to leave the safety of his group, and lost. 

I understand if you have a sign reading "beware vicious dog" you are admitting to have a vicious dog and could be sued by someone who is injured by your dog. Does this apply to the park service? Maybe...they are responsible to managing aspects of the park. They may lose in court. Settling out of court may be cheaper. I hate seeing our parks losing money they do not have. Wild or not, they knew they had a problem goat and someone else got hurt. If it was the first one hurt there probably would be no lawsuit. A park lover would be better suing for a dollar to prove their point, than 10 million we cannot afford.

The commenters who pointed out that this is wild country, not a zoo, are on the right track. This park is probably also black bear country, likely cougar country as well. at a minimum, anyone hiking in the back country should have pepper spray.  also, a recent Fed law permits carrying of weapons in accordance with state law. Washington state is a mandatory-issue state for concealed weapons, thus the wise hiking should have a .45 auto or a .50 S&W pistor for self defense. 

Perhaps the NPS should make everyone sign a release after passing a sign that says "Enter at your own risk."

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