July 3, 2022

Mountain goats that love human pee airlifted from National Park

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By Laura Goldman From Care2

Because their diets are lacking in minerals and salt, mountain goats in Washington State’s Olympic National Park are making up for it by following hikers along trails. It’s not necessarily food handouts they’re hoping for, but something a bit grosser: the goats love to consume human pee.

This has led to a couple of problems. For one thing, tourists don’t like being trailed by what some say are aggressive goats. A hiker in Olympic National Park was killed by a mountain goat in 2010, but as Care2 writer Alicia Graef pointed out at the time, park rangers had hazed that goat for years by throwing rocks at him and shooting him with bean bags. These aggressive attempts to make the goat less aggressive tragically backfired.

Along with being considered a danger to tourists, another issue is that when the mountain goats dig at the urine-soaked earth, it’s damaging to the environment. Even without the presence of human pee, mountain goats are destructive to Olympic National Park, according to the National Park Service (NPS) in its Final Goat Management Plan/Enviromental Impact Statement, published in April. The goats “cause soil erosion, impact native plant communities, and occupy habitat for native species in the national forest,” the report states.

Mountain goats aren’t native to the Olympic Peninsula; humans first introduced them to the area about 100 years ago. Since then, their population has grown to about 725 goats that probably crave human urine due to this environment’s lack of the salt and minerals they need. Mountain goats do happen to be native to the North Cascades Mountains, about 100 miles northeast of the park, yet the population is currently very low.

“Both the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) have long been interested in restoring mountain goats to these depleted areas,” notes the Olympic National Park website.

As a somewhat humane solution—for now at least—last month the NPS and USFS relocated 114 mountain goats to Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in the North Cascades Mountains. To do this, they shot the goats with tranquilizer darts or net guns, then tagged them and fitted them with GPS collars. The goats were blindfolded and airlifted by helicopter to their new homes.

This scary mode of transportation was necessary, the NPS says, because the goats live in steep terrain that’s inaccessible by vehicle.

The NPS wants to remove 90 percent of the mountain goats from Olympic National Park. More goats will be relocated to the North Cascades, but others won’t be so lucky. “Once capture operations become impractical or hazardous due to steep terrain, the remaining goats would be removed by lethal means,” says the park’s website.

And what about the 10 percent of goats not included in the NPS plan? They’ll be addressed “through ongoing maintenance activities which would involve opportunistic ground- and helicopter-based lethal removal of mountain goats, with a focus on areas near high visitor use and areas where goats are causing resource damage.” Yikes.

Other solutions, like neutering or providing birth control for the goats, aren’t possible, according to the NPS, because the goats are extremely difficult to corral and there are no approved chemical contraceptives.

How about this solution: hikers actually heed the WDFW’s warning not to urinate within 50 yards of hiking trails.

Here’s hoping the relocated mountain goats enjoy their new homes and plenty of natural salt in the North Cascades. And to protect themselves and the environment, here’s hoping hikers will stop peeing along the trails of Olympic National Park.

Photo credit: KING 5/YouTube

For more on this story and video go to: https://www.care2.com/causes/mountain-goats-that-love-human-pee-airlifted-from-national-park.html

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