When most people think about Olympic National Park in Washington state, they likely think about the park’s epic coastlines, scenic forests, and gorgeous mountains.
However, the park is facing an issue that not many would imagine they’d have to tackle: a massive population of mountain goats that have developed an unusual craving for human urine, as reported by Motherboard.Their addiction has become so serious that the National Park Services (NPS) and the USDA Forest Service have started tagging and recoating the goats two at a time via helicopter to forests in the nearby North Cascades, making sure to blindfold them so they can’t find their way back.
“The plan is to reach a zero population level of mountain goats in the park and adjacent Olympic National Forest lands…[removing] approximately 90 percent of the projected 2018 mountain goat population, or approximately 625 to 675 mountain goats,” state park officials told Motherboard.
The goats are to be fitted with GPS collars so park officials can keep an eye on the herd in a location more suitable for their quickly growing population.
The goats aren’t a native species to the park but have thrived there since their introduction in the 1920’s, developing their taste for human waste due to their never-ending search for life-sustaining salt and minerals in mountain environments where both are scarce.
Thankfully, hikers answering nature’s call while trekking the trails have become a major source of that much-needed nutrition.
According to the NPS, however, the goat’s thirst for human pee is leading to the goat’s developing some strange habits.
“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.” the NPS said. The Washington Department Of Fish and Wildlife advises people hiking the trails to “Never urinate within 50 yards of a hiking trail” because it leads increased interactions between the goat population and people.
While that might sound adorable, it can actually lead to some issues for both the goats and the people involved.
For example, a 63-year-old visitor to the park was gored and killed by an aggressive ram in 2010, as reported by Seattle Times.
The NPS has tried all types of methods to curd the goat population’s interaction with people along the trail, removing more than 500 goats during the 1980’s, according to a Washington Post report, and even using a trained border collie to herd the goats away from trails.
Olympic State Park is not alone in dealing with similar human urine-related issues. Similar problems have also been reported in Montana’s Glacier National park, according to the NY Times.