Wash. Hiker Killed by Aggressive Mountain Goat

An undated photo of Bob Boardman of Port Angeles, Wash., a 63-year-old hiker killed by an aggressive mountain goat in Olympic National Park Oct. 16, 2010. (AP Photo/Penninsula Daily News)
Olympic National Park wildlife biologist Patti Happe this week will assist in a necropsy of a goat that killed a hiker, as part of the investigation into what happened Saturday.

The necropsy will include a physical evaluation of the goat as well as testing for a variety of diseases by a certified veterinary pathologist in Monroe, said park spokeswoman Barb Maynes on Sunday.

Along with an evaluation of a goat, which was shot and killed by park rangers after it killed hiker Robert Boardman by goring him through the thigh, park officials will interview people who were with Boardman shortly before the attack and any other witnesses who were in the area.

Maynes said she did not know if Boardman was injured through the front or back of his thigh.

"No one saw the injury happen. I don't know that we have enough right now to say," she said.

"We know that there was some kind of encounter, but we don't know exactly what transpired.

"We are trying to really learn everything that we can.

"It is a tragedy that we are taking extremely seriously, and we are trying to learn as much as we possibly can, and as we do, we will be releasing that information and sharing it with the public."

Boardman, 63, was hiking with his wife, Susan Chadd, and their friend, Pat Willits, on the Switchback Trail to Klahhane Ridge about 17 miles south of Port Angeles.

The three had stopped for lunch at an overlook when a goat began moving toward them at about 1:20 p.m.

When the goat began acting aggressively to the trio, Boardman urged Chadd and Willits to go on while he attempted to get rid of the goat and then leave himself, Willits told an off-duty park ranger who arrived on the scene shortly after.

Dr. Margaret Bangs, a local private-practice doctor, said the two women fleeing the area warned her not to go up because of problems with the goat.

"I was in the saddle just before you get to the other hill on the Switchback Trail," Bangs said.

'"I looked up, and you could see him (Boardman) with two walking sticks and that goat following, just breathing down his neck."

She tried to make a cell phone call but did not have service.

"I was too much behind the mountain to get service, so I left to do the only thing I could think of to help: I went to go find a ranger," Bangs said.

By the time she got to an area with a ranger, someone with a cell phone had already phoned in.

Mike Dawson of Port Townsend was on a day hike in the area when he came upon attempted rescue efforts about an hour after Boardman was injured.

"The rescue workers were trying to get in there, but the goat wouldn't leave," he said.

"Eventually, they got a group of people together to scare him away, but he was still guarding the area an hour later."

He watched as a Coast Guard helicopter hoisted Boardman and attempted to resuscitate him.

Boardman was pronounced dead at Olympic Medical Center that afternoon.

In 2008, park officials warned of an aggressive goat in the Klahhane-Hurricane Ridge-Switchback Trail area.

Both park visitors and staff had reported a billy goat on the trail that had approached hikers, followed them and refused to back down, Maynes had said then.

On Sunday, she said it was unknown if only one goat or several were the subject of the reports.

And she didn't know if the billy goat that killed Boardman was the same goat that had intimidated other hikers for at least two years.

"We have had specific reports that we can specifically link to one individual goat," Maynes said.

"We also have reports of goats not moving off the trail or following people that are impossible to link to a particular goat."

Mountain goats were introduced during the 1920s, before Olympic National Park was established in 1938.

By the early 1980s, they had multiplied to more than 1,000 animals. The park launched a live-capture operation during the late 1980s and lifted 407 goats out of the mountains via helicopter.

The animals were taken to the Cascade Range and other wilderness areas around the Northwest.

The federal Office of Aircraft Safety ruled the effort unsafe and shut it down in 1990.

Maynes said visitors are routinely warned, and several signs tell them to throw rocks at goats that appear to be aggressive.

"Keep your distance at least 100 feet away from any wildlife," Maynes said.

"Wild animals are unpredictable, and that is the most important message to get out to people.

"We tell people to be prepared to chase the goats away if they have shown more aggressive behaviors."

Visitors were encouraged to hurl rocks at the aggressive goat and the website Gawker is reporting that park rangers routinely shot the goat with bean bags, possibly causing it to become more aggressive.

She said that though animals can be unpredictable, the best information the park biologists have indicates that responding to the goats in an aggressive manner by yelling, chasing and throwing rocks can help scare them away.

In July, park officials issued a written statement warning visitors to stay at least 100 feet away from the Roosevelt elk in the Hoh Rain Forest area of the park because of some aggressive behavior.

Visitors are also routinely warned not to feed animals in the park as that can contribute to them becoming "habituated" or comfortable with humans.

When elk become habituated, they can become aggressive, the statement said.