Olympic National Park, located in Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula, is faced with a daunting challenge: removing a ballooning mountain goat population that’s developed a strong appetite for human pee.
Mountain goats aren’t a native species in the park. Since their introduction in the 1920s, their numbers have blossomed into a staggering 700 ungulates. Now, with humans flooding the area and routinely relieving themselves on various hiking trails, the goats have developed an insatiable thirst for urine, which serves as a strong source of salt and minerals.
Acting in concert with the National Park Services (NPS) and the USDA Forest Service, park authorities have begun tagging, blindfolding and airlifting the goats to the nearby forests in the North Cascades via helicopter. Fitted with GPS collars, the goats are ferried in pairs to nine sites in the Mt.Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, per a Motherboard report. The sites should provide a more hospitable environment for the surging goat tribe where they can roam free of human interlopers.
The NPS aims to reduce the goats’ numbers dramatically, to the tune of “approximately 90 percent of the projected 2018 mountain goat population, or approximately 625 to 675 mountain goats,” per a an Environmental Impact Statement. The remaining 10 percent would be dealt with via “opportunistic ground and helicopter-based lethal removal of mountain goats” when the terrain is too challenging to corral the goats with a helicopter. Last year, it was suggested that shotguns or high-powered rifles would do the trick, although the park insists its first priority is relocation.
With minerals necessary for their diet scant, the goats have developed a strong predilection for human pee and sweat, which they can find in abundance while foraging through the park’s 1,442 square mile domain. The NPS maintains, however, that urine has an adverse effect on the goat’s behavior:
Mountain goats can be a nuisance along trails and around wilderness campsites where they persistently seek salt and minerals from human urine, packs, and sweat on clothing. They often paw and dig areas on the ground where hikers have urinated or disposed of cooking wastewater.
Goats that “paw and dig” at the earth have posed a detriment to the environment, according to the NPS. Unrelated to lapping up urine are the general safety concerns of interacting with a swelling goat herd: a hiker was gored to death at the park in 2010, for instance.
“The nature of mountain goat-human interactions can vary widely, such as humans observing mountain goats from several hundred meters away across a ridge, mountain goats approaching visitors, hazing events and hazardous interactions such as the October 2010 fatality,” the report states.
Authorities cannot implement fertility control, largely because the animals are so hard to corral. There’s also no approved contraceptive available to quell their birthrates.