Popular high-altitude trails near Orem, Utah, have gotten so crowded, Rocky Mountain goats there have lost their fear of people and have started killing hikers’ dogs.
Three pooches have been killed in front of their owners on Mount Timpanogos in about the past three weeks, including two that were fatally gored and one that was tossed over a cliff and to its death. That was during the most recent attack Saturday, Utah County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Spencer Cannon told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.
The dog tossed over the cliff was reportedly a black Labrador retriever, he said.
“It was reported that the dog was harassing a female mountain goat and she had two babies — or kids — with her,” Cannon said. “And the goat apparently decided, ‘I’ve had enough of this’ and went after the dog.
“I don’t know if the dog was gored in that instance, but it did end up being tossed over a cliff, and the dog died.”
The other two dogs were apparently gored to death, he added.
Acclimated To People
There’s been trouble between people, dogs and mountain goats on Mount Timpanogos for a while, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) spokeswoman Faith Heaton Jolley told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.
“Mount Timpanogos is a very popular high-elevation mountain hike, and there have definitely been other reports and incidents over the years of mountain goats being aggressive there,” she said. “Because there are so many people that hike and backpack in that area, the goats are used to having people in their habitat.
“The goats use many of the same trails that the people do and the conflicts arise when people get too close or let their dogs off leash, as in these instances. I backpacked up there last summer and was shocked at how close the goats came toward us, but I knew to back away and give them a healthy distance.” Jolley added.
Don’t Let Fido Off The Leash
DWR has been advising hikers be careful on the mountain and consider leaving their dogs at home, Jolley said.
“Our main message to people is that there are a lot of goats along the trails on Mount Timpanogos and to give them plenty of space and to please keep your dogs leashed, or leave them home,” Jolley said.
Although there’s no legal requirement to have dogs leashed on Mount Timpanogos, which is a designated wilderness area, the sheriff’s office strongly encourages it, Cannon said.
The area has abundant wildlife, including mountain goats, deer, black bears, moose and mountain lions, he added. But until the trouble with mountain goats stared, most of the reported conflicts between people, pets and wildlife were with moose.
“We don’t have any rouge mountain goats up there deliberately charging people or using their horns just for fun. In each of these instances, we think the mountain goats felt threatened by the dogs,” Cannon said.
Goats Elusive In Wyoming
Mountain Goats are relatively rare and elusive in Wyoming, some outdoorsmen told Cowboy State Daily.
“I have not had any encounters that posed a concern. I also believe that keeping a distance to wildlife is good practice,” said Josh Coursey, who lives near Kemmerer.
“My ‘cowless’ cow dog Kimber is obedient and knows to listen to the hand that feeds her, so I have not run into issues with her harassing/chasing after wildlife,” he added. “I will chalk this (Utah goats killing dogs) as reason No. 187 why I am grateful I don't live in Utah.”
Jaden Bales of Lander said Wyoming mountain goats are mostly a sight unseen in his experience.
“I’ve never even seen a Wyoming mountain goat except on the road to Alpine in the winter,” he said. “We just don’t have the population dynamics — regarding goats or people — for there to be an issue any time in the near future.”
A Wyoming Hunter’s Dream
Mountain goats may be hunted in Wyoming, but good luck drawing a tag.
They are among Wyoming’s “Big 5” game species, for which tags are especially scant and usually once-in-a-lifetime scores for hunters. The other species in that category include bighorn sheep, bison, moose and — if and when they’re delisted and legal to hunt — grizzly bears.
Guy Litt of Laramie had a successful mountain goat hunt near Sunlight Peak in the North Absaroka mountain range last year. He told Cowboy State Daily at the time that he felt incredibly lucky to even have drawn a mountain goat tag.
“There were 48 mountain goat tags available in Wyoming and 3,980 applicants,” he said.
He described the hunt as an extreme undertaking. It was a 12-mile hike just to get in to base camp, and the mountain goats were difficult to find and stalk.
Not Really Goats
Just as Wyoming’s pronghorn, commonly called antelope, aren’t really antelope, mountain goats have also been misnamed.
They aren’t members of the true goat family, but instead are a “goat-antelope” species with relatives in Asia.
They’re sizable, so nothing to trifle with. Large males can weigh about 260 pounds, and females weigh 130–200 pounds.
Their natural predators include bears and wolverines, and eagles sometimes kill their young.
Wolves also prey on mountain goats, which could explain the critters’ dislike for dogs.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.