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Mountain Goats of Glacier

You may think you look human, but to a goat, you're just a big block of salt
Take a Red Bus Tour of Glacier and at some point the driver will pull off the road, point to two tiny white dots on a cliff and say "Wow, look at those mountain goats!" Well, aren't you lucky....NOT! Mountain goats are the most docile and predictable critters in Glacier National Park and with little effort you should be able to view them without your glasses, let alone your binoculars.

First a little history. For decades, visitors to Logan Pass and Hidden Lake would see mountain goats close up on a daily basis and indeed the goats would be the highlight of many a trip to the pass. Several years ago, the goats and the Park Service had a falling out, likely as a result of a hiker being killed by an aggressive mountain goat in Olympic National Park in 2010. Eventually, the Park Service instituted a policy of harassment of goats at Logan Pass in order to get them to stop interacting so closely with all the tourists.

I recall seeing mountain goats at Logan Pass on my first trip to GNP in 1977 but couldn't find any of the photos from then. More recently though, it is hard to find summertime photos without goats in them. Here are two Logan Pass/Hidden Lake photos, one with one of my daughters blowing a mountain goat a kiss.

Later, at the start of the Highline Trail, we had to pause and wait for a mountain goat to pass along the narrow cliff portion of the trail (below left)

Like a cat, mountain goats always like occupying the high ground (below right)

Look for mountain goats in the high country, around or above the timberline in central portions of the park. Despite the goat harassment program, mountain goats are still often seen around Logan Pass, especially around the start of the Highline Trail and the pull out on Going to the Sun Road just north of the pass. Other good places to see mountain goats close up are around Sperry, Grinnell Glacier, and around Siyeh Pass down to Sexton Glacier.


The most obnoxious mountain goats hang out on the trail from Sperry Chalet to Gunsight Pass. Don't set anything containing your sweat on a chair, deck, or rock; it will soon end up in the mouth of a salt-craving goat. (below left:  goat at Sperry Chalet, a few weeks before it burned down in 2017)

Above Lake Ellen Wilson, like some kind of pervert, a goat will tag along just behind you until you pee. Near Gunsight Pass, this goat was not content to wait for me to pee, he marched up and started licking my sweaty arm.  (below right)

The Hungry Horse News ran a story this summer about a camper at Lake Ellen Wilson who left his tent door unzipped and had his tent vandalized by mountain goats. Its okay to wish for goat encounters, but be careful what you wish for!


References
1. Wilson, Sam, "Border Collie Trained to Work at Logan Pass," Hungry Horse News, May 29, 2016
2. Peterson, Chris, "At Ellen Wilson, Unwelcome Guests", Hungry Horse News, August 22, 2018

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