Hiking is an enjoyable outdoor activity. There’s nothing quite like getting outside—maybe enjoying a mountaintop picnic and the visual delights Mother Nature has given us.
But let’s not forget the aggressive mountain goats that, until recently, posed a threat to visitors of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
Mountain goats aren’t generally known to be aggressive, but reports began surfacing of confrontational and unfriendly goats approaching hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The peninsula trail was closed for three months but was recently reopened after park rangers used “hazing” to clear out the goats. Hazing methods included paintballs, horns and chemicals.
“Coexistence is a two-way street,” said Amanda McAdams, acting Hood Canal Ranger District forest supervisor. “We want people to keep the goats wild. The goats also need to be taught to respect our personal space and not to approach people.”
Never mind that, y’know, the goats lived there first.
It’s understandable that certain actions needed to be taken to ensure hikers’ safety, etc. While it’s true that mountain goats pose little threat to hikers, it’s also important to remember: They’re animals, and very territorial animals at that.
In 2010, a man was gored to death by a mountain goat. Who’s to say he wasn’t provoking the goat in the first place? That same goat was shot and killed by a park ranger shortly after.
Hazing the goats isn’t where the problem lies. Park rangers are there to make sure national parks and hiking trails remain safe for civilians and hikers. No, the problem is what McAdams said. By claiming that goats need to learn respect for “our” personal space, McAdams ignores the fact that those mountain goats lived on that peninsula long before humans made it a hiking destination.
This story is very similar to what happened in Bend two years ago. Bend city officials decided that Drake Park—a nice riverside park located downtown—had too many geese, and the feces problem was more than park dwellers were willing to put up with.
Rather than choosing ethical means of shooing away the geese, they were captured while asleep, loaded into garbage cans and then gassed to death.
City officials had tried other methods of ridding the park of geese. Prior to the goose massacre, goose-chasing dogs had been let loose in the park. Paintballs were shot at the geese, and goose eggs were coated with oil to prevent development and hatching.
What’s strange is that the decision-makers claimed it was “conservation.” Last time I checked, killing geese and telling goats to respect the personal space of humans isn’t being environmentally conservative.
If goose poop bothers you, toughen up or wear a pair of rubber boots when you go out.
If you’re really that worried about being attacked by a (usually docile) mountain goat, follow the advice of park rangers and wildlife biologists: Carry around a can full of rocks and vigorously shake it should you feel threatened.
That should effectively scare off the goat with no harm to either party. But really, the chances of being attacked by a mountain goat are so slim that there’s very little to worry about. If a goat wants to gore you, there’s really not much you can do about it anyway.
The earth and animals have been around longer than humans—and have been just fine. Honestly, humans will probably die out much sooner than geese or mountain goats, and the earth will continue to just be.
So while we are still on the planet, let’s treat its other inhabitants with some respect. Hazing might sometimes be necessary when people truly are in danger, but it doesn’t need to be violent. Finding nonviolent ways to protect yourself and others is perfectly easy if you’re willing to put forth the effort.
At the end of the day, we’re only human, but that doesn’t give us the right to disrespect our fellow earthly creatures. If that idea is too granola for you, maybe you should consider hazing yourself.