SEATTLE (AP) — Four years after a mountain goat fatally gored a hiker in Olympic National Park, officials are looking at ways to manage the goats to protect public safety and the environment.
The National Park Service is evaluating preliminary options, including capturing and relocating the goats to the Washington Cascades, increasing hazing activities, killing them, doing nothing, or some combination of those approaches.
Robert Boardman, 63, of Port Angeles, was fatally attacked in October 2010 by a 370-pound mountain goat on a popular trail in Olympic National Park, about 75 miles west of Seattle. He was trying to protect his wife and a friend when the goat gored him, severing arteries in his thigh.
The goat was believed to have been one that harassed park visitors for years. Boardman's widow, Susan Chadd, later sued the federal government for negligence in its management of the goat, but a federal judge in Tacoma eventually dismissed her claims.
Rangers shot the aggressive goat later that day. An exam done on the goat showed no disease or other significant health issues.
Mountain goats, which are not native to Olympic National Park, have long posed a problem for park officials.
Helicopters were used in the 1980s to capture and remove the goats because they were damaging the park's fragile alpine vegetation and soil.
But the fatal attack in 2010 has raised new concerns about the goats' presence, the park said Monday in announcing that it is preparing an environmental impact statement on its goat-management plan.
About a dozen goats were introduced to the Olympic Mountains in the 1920s, before the park was established in 1938. By 1983, the numbers grew to more than 1,100. About 300 goats graze the park's alpine meadows and roam its rocky peaks, though the population is increasing.
Olympic National Park updated its overarching policy on nuisance animals, including mountain goats, in 2011. That plan outlined a range of actions to take in response to increasing levels of aggressive goat behavior. It includes using noise deterrents such as sirens to lethal removal.
In 2011, under those new guidelines, park rangers shot and killed a mountain goat near the park's eastern boundary after it showed aggressive behavior at a camping area.
The goats can be a nuisance along heavily used trails and around wilderness campsites because they seek out salt and minerals from human urine, backpacks and sweat on clothing, according to the park.
There have been no other goat attacks reported since 2010.
"What we're starting today is a plan that would look at overall management of the population across the entire park," said Barbara Maynes, an Olympic Park spokeswoman.
Three public meetings are scheduled next month in Seattle, Olympia and Port Angeles.