SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A man spotted dressed in a goat suit among a herd of wild goats in the mountains of northern Utah has wildlife officials worried he could be in danger as hunting season approaches.
Phil Douglass of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said Friday the person is doing nothing illegal, but he worries the so-called "goat man" is unaware of the dangers.
"My very first concern is the person doesn't understand the risks," Douglass said. "Who's to say what could happen."
Douglass said a man hiking Sunday along Ben Lomond peak in the mountains above Ogden, about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, spotted the person dressed like a goat among a herd of real goats. The person provided some blurry photographs to Douglass, who said they did not appear to have been altered.
Wildlife officials now just want to talk to the man so that he is aware of the dangers. There's no telling what his intentions are, Douglass said, but it is believed he could just be an extreme wildlife enthusiast.
"People do some pretty out there things in the name of enjoying wildlife. But I've never had a report like this," Douglass said. "There's a saying we have among biologists — You don't go far enough, you don't get the data. You go too far, you don't go home. The same is true with some wildlife enthusiasts."
Douglass said 60 permits will be issued for goat hunting season in that area, which begins in September. He worries the goat man might be accidentally shot or could be attacked by a real goat.
"They may get agitated. They're territorial. They are, after all, wild animals," he said. "This person puts on a goat suit, he changes the game. But as long as he accepts responsibility, it's not illegal."
Douglass said wildlife officials received an anonymous call Thursday from an "agitated man" after the sighting was reported in local media. The caller simply said, "Leave goat man alone. He's done nothing wrong.'"
"I want people to enjoy Utah's wildlife. We live in a really neat place. We have wildlife all around us," Douglass said. "We just want people to be safe."
Coty Creighton, 33, spotted the goat man Sunday during his hike. He said he came across the herd, but noticed something odd about one goat that was trailing behind the rest.
"I thought maybe it was injured," Creighton said Friday. "It just looked odd."
He said he pulled out binoculars to get a closer look at the herd about 200 yards away and was shocked. The man appeared to be acting like a goat while wearing the crudely made costume, which had fake horns and a cloth mask with cut-out eye holes, Creighton said.
"I thought, 'What is this guy doing?' " Creighton said. "He was actually on his hands and knees. He was climbing over rocks and bushes and pretty rough terrain on a steep hillside."
Creighton said the man occasionally pulled up his mask, apparently trying to navigate the rocky terrain. The man then appeared to spot Creighton.
"He just stopped in his tracks and froze," he said.
Creighton moved down the mountain and hid behind a tree, then began snapping photographs.
The goat man then put his mask back on, Creighton said, got back down on his hands and knees and scurried to catch up with the herd.
"We were the only ones around for miles," Creighton said. "It was real creepy."