Olympic National Park Tackles Urine-Addicted Goats Issue With Relocation, Culling Operation

by Taylor Cunningham

In a twist a good fortune, Olympic National Park visitors can now relieve themselves without fearing a brutal goat attack.

For those of you who are reading this and scratching their heads, let us explain. Mountain goats that once lived inside the Washington State park became urine addicts. And it was kind of our fault.

The animals aren’t native to Olympic National Park. Instead, hunters released them into the area in the 1920s for recreational purposes. Though they only introduced 12 at the time, the population exploded over the decades. And by 2010, there were more than 700.

The goats flourished in the park because of the lack of hunting and natural predators. But there was one problem. Goats need salt, and the park doesn’t supply much.

But goats are smarter than they look. And it didn’t take long for them to realize that human urine has a lot of salt. But once they got a taste of the sweet sweet mineral-dense nectar (gross), they were hooked.

Because humans supplied the much-needed sodium, goats no longer feared them. They’d walk right up to them looking for not just the yellow stuff but also sweat-soaked clothing. And over the years, they became aggressive.

And the situation went from a joking matter to a serious problem in 2010 when one goat actually killed a hiker while looking for urine.

Because of that and the toll that the animals were taking on the ecosystem, park authorities decided that the goats had to go.

Olympic National Park Went to Great Lengths to Remove the Goats

The first suggested method of removal was to kill the animals. But wildlife groups said there had to be a better way. And in 2018, they came up with a more humane solution.

Mountain Goats are native to The North Cascades, which is a neighboring national park. And the species has actually been decreasing in recent years. So it was common sense to remove the “nuisance” population out of Olympic National Park and send it where it’s needed. But implementing the plan wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

The evasive animals lived in high alpine terrain, rangers couldn’t just walk up there and bring them down. So, they had to do it all with helicopters.

Wildlife specialists first shot the goats with tranquilizer darts. Then they blindfolded them and wrapped them in a special sling. And for good measure, they also covered their horns. After that, they carried the animals to their new homes by rope.

Nearly 400 mountain goats made the flight that year. But until recently, the other half was still stalking innocent hikers in Olympic National Park.

So stage two of the process went into effect in late 2020. But unfortunately for the goats, that stage consisted of culling, or killing, the remaining animals.

“This was always part of the plan,” Rob Smith of the National Park Conservation Association said. “We always expected that capturing wouldn’t get them all.” 

“As you proceed the remaining animals get smarter and smarter, they don’t just sit there,” Dr. Harris explained. “They run and it becomes difficult…and it becomes more dangerous for both the animals and the people doing the work.

To date, park officials don’t know how many goats remain in the park. But they did say that the population is low enough that they no longer harass people for sweat and urine.