A National Park Is Airlifting Hundreds of Mountain Goats That Have Gone Crazy for Human Pee
Mountain goats in Olympic National Park are obsessed with human urine and are now a public nuisance.
Image: National Park Service
Outdoor enthusiasts have a storied history of wrecking nature with their excrement and now, hikers are apparently driving mountain goats crazy with pee.
At Olympic National Park in the state of Washington, hundreds of mountain goats are being airlifted by helicopter and moved to forests in the North Cascades. The reason? They’re too thirsty for human piss.
According to the national park, the fluffy ungulate has begun harassing visitors at campsites “where they persistently seek salt and minerals from human urine.” Goats are known to “paw and dig” where people have relieved themselves, causing the animals to become a nuisance.
The park estimates that 375 goats will be relocated this way, according to its final management plan. It’s possible that between 275 and 325 goats will be “lethally removed” by shooting them with rifles over three to five years, though the park says capture and release is its top priority. (“There is no intention to leave rotting carcasses within sight or smell of visitors,” the park clarified.)
Read more: Bad Goats Removed by Helicopter
Successfully captured goats are blindfolded, tagged, and fitted with GPS collars. Once loaded into crates, they’re transported in pairs to nine release sites throughout Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and on land owned by Seattle Public Utilities.
“The plan is to reach a zero population level of mountain goats in the park and adjacent Olympic National Forest lands…[removing] approximately 90 percent of the projected 2018 mountain goat population, or approximately 625 to 675 mountain goats,” the plan states.
Mountain goats are attracted to sources of salt and minerals to supplement their diet. And in Olympic National Park, where the goats are not a native species, these nutrients are harder to come by.
Yet, while normally shy, mountain goats have become habituated to humans. Many hikers are tempted to feed the animals from their salty palms. Urinating on trailsides is also discouraged, since it causes goats to associate people with their sodium-rich pee. (“Never urinate within 50 yards of a hiking trail,” the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife warns.)
In 2010, a 63-year-old man was gored by an aggressive ram and died in the park.
Authorities have tried to control mountain goat numbers before, removing more than 500 during the 1980s, and even using a border collie to herd them away from visitors. The animals are unable to be sterilized, since no approved chemical contraception exists. The park is unable to introduce predators, such as gray wolves, to eat them, as they are “not effective predators on mountain goats” and would negatively impact other prey animals, such as elk and deer. Hunting within the park is also illegal.
Several alternatives were considered by Olympic National Park. Doing nothing, for instance, focusing instead “on preventing unacceptable mountain goat behavior,” the plan states. But this scenario would have ultimately caused goat numbers to increase.
The relocation project is being led by the National Park Service and the USDA Forest Service. It was developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with assistance from the National Park Service Environmental Quality Division, and input from local tribes and residents.
Similar, pee-related problems have also been reported in Montana’s Glacier National park.
Mountain goats were introduced to the area during the 1920s and have colonized the entire region. Here, they pose a threat to vegetation, cause soil erosion, and compete with native wildlife.
The goats will be relocated to the North Cascades where they are a native species.