The mountain goats at Mount Ellinor and other locations in the Olympic Mountains have grown habituated to people, meaning that they have lost their fear of human beings. The animals, though wild, have grown used to people feeding them and supplying salts and minerals from sweat or urine.
Since the closure was initiated, an aversive conditioning plan was launched and a comprehensive, science-based plan for managing the human-mountain goat conflicts was started and is still under development. Wildlife biologists from Olympic National Forest, Olympic National Park, and the Washington Department of Fish and Game have been working diligently to monitor the goats and discourage them from approaching people.
“We have been very dedicated to this effort,” said Hood Canal District Ranger Dean Yoshina. A decision was made to reopen the trail after a notable change was observed in the mountain goats, but a marked change in human behavior is also imperative. “Support from all visitors will be critical if we are to successfully open the trail and keep it open and safe,” he stated. “One person’s decision to feed the mountain goats could trigger the same behaviors that we have been working so hard to deter.”
Monitoring and aversive conditioning actions will continue after the trail reopens but the area may close again and further actions taken if unacceptable mountain goat behavior is observed. Please observe the following suggestions when visiting Mount Ellinor:
- Stay at least 50 yards (half the length of a football field) away from all wildlife.
- If a mountain goat approaches, chase it off by yelling, waving clothing, or throwing rocks.
- Do not feed the mountain goats or allow them to lick your skin or gear.
- Urinate on rocks or snow at least 50 yards from the trail.
- Note that male goats become more aggressive during the breeding season, which is generally from October through December.