Not exactly feeding the animals, but…

Last week we talked about all the reasons we shouldn’t feed the wildlife while hiking and backpacking. This week we’ll look at a different way of, um, supplying the animals with nutrients.

Last October I joined four Mountaineer friends on a trek of sorts to The Enchantments, a gorgeous area in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, simultaneously near Leavenworth, Washington, and at the same time seemingly a million miles from it. We headed out on a Saturday morning and returned the following Friday afternoon, and every single morning when we emerged from our tents we were greeted by at least a pair of goats, usually a mother and a kid.

Mom Finds a Salt Lick, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WashingonNow you folks who live near Seattle may find this a little unsettling after hearing about the goat that killed a man in the Olympic National Park two years prior, and the warnings from rangers that continue to this day about aggressive goats in that park. Well, I don’t know why, but the goats on the peninsula and the goats in the Cascades seem to have completely different agendas. It seems the Cascade goats want to be your best buddies, and the reason is salt. And salt is in human urine. And goats know that. In fact, they have absolutely no interest in our food, but they know the first thing we all do every morning when we come out of our tents is go off somewhere to pee. And so they follow you. Closely. My friend Heidi claims to have taught the mother goat the meaning of the word “NO!” when she got a bit too close a bit too soon. Couldn’t tell you if she got through to the beast or not.

The rangers tell us not to pee on vegetation because the goats will destroy it to get to the salt. I find that interesting, since these are probably the same plants the goat was going to eat anyway. But being good Mountaineers, we always look for a nearby rock instead.

_MG_7313-81So what about the ethics of all this? Rangers advise that we stay 50 to 150 feet away from goats. Heck, we had trouble staying 50 inches away from the things. The darned things would have slept with us in our tents if they could have. I couldn’t take a photo of our campsite without a goat in it if I tried (our “assigned” two goats are both in the photo on the left). But they never showed any signs of aggression at all.

Were we wrong to let them get that close? Should we have shooed them away? Are you kidding me? Have you seen the horns on those things?

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2 Responses to “Not exactly feeding the animals, but…”

  1. Heidi says:

    It is a little unsettling to be in the fully vulnerable position and have a goat try to get between your legs. I needed to pee with a sharp stick.

  2. Gwen says:

    My friend Jenny said she would take rocks with her when she went to pee in the ‘Chants. Oddly enough, I didn’t see any goats in the Uppers, only on the route in, well below Snow Lakes. “Course, we did end up in whiteout conditions. :-\