Enjoy encounters with mountain goats, but keep a safe distance

  • Mt goat Scotchman Peak
    Creative Commons Licence
    Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Fish and Game was recently notified of hikers displaying some inappropriate behavior when it comes to interactions with mountain goats, such as taking close-up selfies with these sharp-horned beasts. We know how cool it is to be outdoors hiking and see a mountain goat. It’s an experience that you will never forget!  However, it is important to remember that these animals are WILD.

Some hiking trails in the Panhandle and elsewhere in Idaho are known for having mountain goats, so if you venture out on one of these trails please keep a few things in mind.

Keep your distance

Mountain goats are known to behave aggressively, especially if they have young or if food is involved. If you see mountain goats on the trail, or if they are approaching you, yell, get big, and make an effort to scare them away.

Do not feed them or leave your backpack unattended

Mountain goats are attracted to salt, so do not feed them, or let them lick your sweaty hands. They will also chew on and damage or destroy the sweaty straps of backpacks, so do not leave your pack alone. Also, please try to urinate away from the trail, as goats like the salt from urine.

Consider this, goats are not only faster than you, they can – and have – seriously injured hikers. In recent years, at northern Idaho’s Scotchman Peak, one hiker was gored in the leg, and another hiker had to get stitches after being bitten by a goat. In both cases the hikers had been allowing the goat to lick sweat from their legs. In Olympic National Park in Washington, a hiker died from blood loss after being gored in the femoral artery by a mountain goat.

It is crucial that people maintain their distance from goats, as we don’t want them becoming habituated to humans. Goats that become habituated are not only a safety concern to humans, but it will become an issue for the safety of the goats themselves. When habituated wild animals harm people, we have little choice but to relocate or euthanize those animals.

Please do your part to keep mountain goats wild, and to keep both people and goats safe. Take photos from a safe distance, and don’t encourage them to lose wariness by feeding them, or allowing them to approach you to lick the sweat off your pack, clothes or person. Keep it wild.