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Trail ambassadors help keep hikers, goats safe

| June 16, 2022 1:00 AM

The days are getting longer, the snow is melting, wildflowers are blooming. That means it’s time to get out and hike Scotchman Peak.

The iconic ridge that looms over Lake Pend Oreille lends itself to fantastic views and the opportunity to see wild mountain goats in their craggy home, Friends of Scotchman Peaks officials said in a press release.

While it is tempting to get up close and personal with these herbivorous creatures, FSPW officials said it’s important to remember they are still wild creatures with sharp horns and tough attitudes.

Like horses and cows, these ungulates crave salt and will walk many miles to find it in the wild. On top of Scotchman Peak, they don’t need to travel far, as hkers’ backpacks, shirts, and urine all possess the precious mineral. The mountain goats have learned that an easier way to find salt is to lick hikers and their equipment, not to mention the urine left behind on the ground.

“While it can be an amazing feeling to be that close to a wild animal, please remember that it is not only dangerous for you, but also for the goats and future hikers,” FSPW officials said in the release. “If a goat becomes a ‘problem,’ it may face the death penalty. Future hikers will be harassed by salt-seeking goats. And as we’ve seen in other busy mountainous places, aggressive goats can lead to trail closures at best and hiker fatalities at worst.”

When hiking in the Scotchmans, FSPW reminded hikers to give the mountain goats space, with a recommended safe distance of 100 feet.

“If mountain goats are approaching you, be loud and intimidating,” FSPW officials said. “Maybe even wave your arms and do a little summit dance. Show the goat you’re not an easy target for salt. If you see other hikers getting too close to the goats, politely let them know that they should stay away because these wild animals can be dangerous.”

Area residents are also invited to volunteer to be a Scotchman Peak trail ambassador this summer to help keep mountain goats wild and the Scotchman Peak trail open. During hikes, trail ambassadors chat with fellow hikers about goat etiquette and safety. To become a volunteer Trail Ambassador or learn more about hiking safely in mountain goat territory visit: Scotchmanpeaks.org.

"When encountering a mountain goat on the Scotchman Peak trail, remember where you are,” FSPW officials said. “You’re in their home, not the other way around.”

photo

(Courtesy photo) A new Forest Service sign greets Scotchman Peaks hikers low on the trail, reminding people to keep their distance from the mountain goats they may encounter higher on the mountain.

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