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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It really gets my goat

Thank you for reading this. 
Being a wilderness gossip columnist is a responsibility I take very seriously. 
Enquiring minds want to know: “What do you do when you're attacked by a mountain goat?”   
People used to think that you're more likely to get bit by an alpine alligator than gored by a mountain goat but that isn't true. Just last year a hiker was fatally injured by a mountain goat on a popular hiking trail near Hurricane Ridge. 
This tragedy confirmed my own fear of mountain goats that goes back to the last century. It is a time referred to as B.C. (Before Color). There was only black and white television. 
There were only two TV channels and they were Canadian, eh. 
It was before video games. Children were encouraged and nurtured to spend time outdoors engaged in unsupervised activities before the parental guidance committee gave you some chores. Virtually unknown today, chores were menial tasks that could be in violation of today's child labor laws. 
Being ignorant and oppressed we couldn't wait to get our chores done to engage in yet another forgotten practice — the family activity, where an entire family could be squeezed into the same vehicle, driven to a remote location and forced to backpack.  
It's a degrading practice where you walk up a primitive trail while carrying a burden that contained everything you needed to survive in the wilderness — cocoa. 
In that unenlightened age, you could drink out of a stream or build a fire anywhere. So we did. On clear nights we slept beneath the starry heavens, uncluttered with satellites. 
It was early one morning during a backpacking episode that I saw my first mountain goat. Everyone was still asleep.
 I opened my eyes to see a giant white horned monster licking the dew off my mother's hair just a foot or so away. The goat was huge but then everything seems bigger when you're small and looking up at it.  
I froze. The goat looked me in the eye. I hoped I didn't have any dew in my hair.  After a while the goat walked over to sniff through the ashes of the campfire. Then he scampered up a cliff and stood like a statue watching us. 
At the time it never would have occurred to us that the mountain goat was dangerous. Back then families included the now-endangered father figure. 
My old man was a logger who always carried a good sharp ax. If a mountain goat got frisky it was liable to end up on the barbecue. 
Mountain goats are not as cute and cuddly as they look. They have been known to kill grizzlies. 
Except for falling off a cliff, nothing much kills a mountain goat because they are tough and live on mountaintops that no predator except an eagle can get to. 
Mountain goats seem to know this. They are intelligent animals that toy with humans by rolling rocks or playing “chicken” on the trail where one or the other must get out of the way and it ain't going to be the goat. 
Lately, National Park Officials have proposed punishing the humans for the goats bad behavior by closing trails. Until then you are advised to shout and wave your arms at the goats but that has been  tried with tragic results.  
It's better to shout, wave your arms and shoot the goat. The rest of the non-native goats will soon get the message and go back to digging up endangered plants instead of attacking people. 
We'll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now. 

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