– A story with a tragic ending about a mountain goat we got very close to –
The snow is gradually melting on Hurricane Ridge.
Yesterday there was a mountain goat lying in the sun on Hurricane Ridge. He seemed to have waited for us; when we passed by he got up and started to follow us. He was lonely – it was a long winter, and it’s not quite over yet. He didn’t look too happy, it’s the time when they shed their fur and the old wool hangs on them like rags. He followed us all the way to the summit of Mt.Angeles. At times he led the way, he sure knew the best routes, but at other times, when we had our peculiar human preferences, he followed. When I was far ahead he stayed with Parvin. He clearly enjoyed our company.
I don’t know if it is the same one we often meet in summer, there are only a few in this area, but I like to think that he knows us and that we share the same love of this place. He is a formidable climber, he may not do the vertical stuff we sometimes do, but he always knows ways to get up, and mostly with much more ease than ourselves. I saw him down-climb a chimney on his funny hooves without any hesitation where I clearly need all my fingers and a lot of muscle, too. We know most of the spots where he likes to hang out, always places with a spectacular view. He sits there gently breathing and looks out into the distance, sometimes he meditates with closed eyes, but mostly he seems to examine the distant landscape.
Once, coming down from Mt. Anderson, I met a group on the high, snowy cornice of a remote mountain ridge, a very narrow, exposed place with an outlook to catastrophic falls on both sides and nowhere else to go. With dramatically raised hair on their backs and impressive snorts they stood their ground. I tried to wait them out and even retreated a bit, to which they only started to follow me up the mountain right away. Unimaginative, and typically aggressive as we humans often are I eventually thought I had no alternative but use force and raised my ice ax and charged, yelling at the top of my voice. They jumped down the ridge, easily found footing on the impossibly steep slope, and looked at me half grinning: “ok, ok, we are not going to really fight over this!”
It’s funny, they are actually not very social creatures, you rarely see more than two in one area, and they seem to always keep a good distance between them. Why did this poor fellow pick us for company? We humans are not good friends for them. His ancestors lived far away in the Rocky Mountains, and it were humans who, some 50 years ago, brought a few of them here to the Olympic Peninsula, probably to have some nice, highly visible, moving targets to shoot at. They loved it here. Later other self-appointed human “nature-managers” decided that they didn’t belong here and tried to wipe them out again. We once met a guy who had a license to shoot them in the park with bow and arrow, his eyes were glowing, remembering his joy doing that. They are very smart, some managed to survive, and now they are back.
For a moment we thought he is lonely, but I’m sure he just loves the same thing we do – comrades, fellow creatures, enjoying life, contemplating life on some exposed crag. You know goat eyes, they have these strange, slot-like pupils that give them this funny, unfocused, slightly stupid look, as if they are not quite here, like a human, driving and talking on a goddamn cell phone at the same time, as if this world doesn’t deserve their wholehearted consideration and half of their attention is somewhere else. Our kinship is far from being strange. Beyond thinking, before thinking, I’m sure, he is aware of the very same wonderful sensation of being alive, of an ultimate ok-ness in all this amazing chaos of incomprehensible coming and going, of peace in the midst of silly, unsubstantial, petty, personal fear.
His coat was old and falling apart, but a new one already growing.
Here’s a mother with her baby.
He may not do the vertical stuff we sometimes do, but he always knows ways to get up with much more ease than ourselves.
Klaus June 16, 2008
Follow up, Spring 2011:
It looks like our friend the mountain goat got killed after an extremely unusual incident this fall. I only learned about it through an article a friend sent us. Very weird story! It makes me sad that such things happen; we knew this goat for years and always felt that we could coexist perfectly well in these wonderful mountains.
Olympic National Park News Release
October 16, 2010
For Immediate Release
Barb Maynes 360-565-3005
Man Sustains Fatal Injury While Hiking in Olympic National Park
Sixty-three year old Robert H. Boardman of Port Angeles died this afternoon
after sustaining injuries while hiking near Olympic National Park�s
Klahhane Ridge today.
The incident remains under investigation. Early investigations indicate
that Boardman�s injuries were sustained after an encounter with a mountain
goat. Park staff were on scene shortly after the initial report and
provided emergency medical assistance. Boardman was transported by U.S.
Coast Guard helicopter to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles, where he was pronounced dead.
“I am deeply saddened by this tragedy,” said Karen Gustin, Olympic National Park Superintendent. “My thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Rangers responding to the incident were able to locate the goat, confirm its identity and kill it. The goat will be transported to a veterinary pathologist for full analysis.
Klahhane Ridge is located near Hurricane Ridge within Olympic National Park, about 17 miles south of Port Angeles.
Additional information will be released as it becomes available.
— NPS —
Another update Aug.10. 2011
Now the family of the poor victim is suing the Park for negligence (10 million dollars). What are people thinking? The Park does this wonderful job of providing the last bit of wilderness where things still are as they naturally are, and here we come and expect protection from this natural wilderness. I don’t know what this man did, but when you go there you have to accept the rules of nature. I thought one purpose of the Park is to preserve places where such rules of nature are still in tact. The animals live there, we are just visitors.
Klaus Aug. 13. 2011