Glacier National Park Not Taking Lead From Olympic National Park On Mountain Goats

Glacier National Park officials hope educating visitors on the dangers of wildlife will prevent any dangerous encounters between mountain goats and hikers. Kurt Repanshek photo.

While Olympic National Park is facing a multi-million-dollar lawsuit over the fatal goring of a hiker by a mountain goat and has implemented regulations designed to ward off future run-ins with the goats, at goat-rich Glacier National Park officials are not altering their regulations.

Federal officials in January are expected to file their response to the lawsuit the widow and stepson of Robert Boardman filed earlier this month over his death in Olympic in October 2010. 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.

An investigation into the park's handling of the case by the law firm the family retained 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.

This past summer Olympic officials implemented a mountain goat management plan, part of which urged hikers not to urinate on trails, as the salty deposits in effect become "long linear salt licks" that lure the goats.

While Glacier officials, who have a healthy population of mountain goats, many of which visitors encounter on Logan Pass, are watching the Olympic situation, Superintendent Chas Cartwright says they haven't altered any of their management plans or visitor regulations for wildlife.

“We have a variety of wild animals, most notably grizzly bears and black bears, and yes, we do have goats, sheep, and other animals that are in close proximity to heavy visitor use. I think that we have a pretty good plan and a pretty good program for managing that, but that’s something that I think will always be in the back of our minds," Superintendent Cartwright told the Traveler.

"Are we doing the job that we need to do to protect those animals but also protect people? We had a pretty incredible history of not having many people get hurt, much less killed, which is really good, but we need to keep working at that.

"That ability to maintain a backcountry presence in those areas where there’s more likely than not to be conflicts, it’s going to be critical because it doesn’t just take care of itself," he continued. "We need to have good policies, good guidelines, and then we need to have the people on the ground that are managing that so that we don’t get into a terrible scenario like happened in Olympic."

“The bottom line is these animals are wild. As you’re walking down the trail and you find yourself walking a few feet away from a goat, I think when you initially observe the animal and you see what looks like pretty docile and friendly behavior, I think that the thing that we need to keep educating folks on is that they are wild animals."

Grand Teton National Park officials this past summer refined their guidelines as to how close people can be to wildlife. The need for the revisions arose as more and more visitors took to the roofs of their vehicles to photograph bears and, in at least two instances, the bears took exception and charged the vehicles, according to park officials.

While park guidelines long have said visitors should not approach within 100 yards of bears and wolves, or within 25 yards from other animals, including nesting birds, the updated regulation now specifies that "remaining, viewing, or engaging in any activity within 100 yards of bears or wolves" is against park regulations.

Glacier doesn't have any similar regulations, but officials are watching how effective it proves to be, said Superintendent Cartwright.

“I think it’s a different approach," he said "We don’t have those (regualtions), but we’re keenly watching what happens to see whether it’s something that was effective or not. I think there’s a lot of logic to it, but no, we don’t have those right now.”