The usually “very mellow” mountain goats on a Utah peak popular with hikers and campers have killed three dogs in as many weeks, local officials said.
The fatal encounters involving dogs and mountain goats are “not unheard of” but are “unusual” for the area, according to officials.
In the most recent attack, an unleashed dog was “harassing” a mother mountain goat and her two babies on Saturday, when the mother goat “had enough” and shoved the dog off of a cliff to its death, Sergeant Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office told Newsweek in a phone interview Tuesday night.
The two other dogs were gored and died from their injuries on unspecified dates within the last three weeks, according to the Timpanogos Emergency Response Team (TERT), a volunteer group that assists hikers and climbers on the mountain.
The mountain goats that call Mount Timpanogos home can weigh as much as 150 pounds and have long, sharp horns that can cause fatal injuries. While they’re generally timid and will run from loud noises, unlike moose, Cannon said the goats will attack if provoked.
“You get one of the big ones and they can they can very easily hold their own against a human, certainly against a dog, and even a dog that would be considered a vicious dog or a big dog,” Cannon told Newsweek. “All it takes is one of those horns to get hooked on to their arm or in their gut or something and it’s all over for the dog.”
Newsweek also reached out via email and Facebook to TERT for comment. The group first reported the deaths of the three dogs in a Facebook post on Saturday, as the group also reminded people of the “rules and etiquette to keep all of the animals safe.”
“We’ve all seen the videos of tourists up in Yellowstone who are getting a little too close to the bear and the bison up there and the same kind of thing applies here,” Cannon told Newsweek. “We’re in nature, we’re in a wilderness area, and there is a lot of wildlife out there. We have to be aware of that and be prepared for it.”
In the case of the fatal encounter over the weekend, the dog was off leash and bothering the mother goat and her babies, resulting in the mother pushing the dog off a cliff.
“It is the responsibility of dog owners to keep their animals under control at all times, as well as to pack out their waste,” TERT said. “Allowing your dogs to chase goats carries fines akin to poaching. Both dogs and people need to pay attention while on the trails.”
The volunteer group provided an example of a non-fatal mountain goat attack that involved a dog named Ruby getting tossed in the air and gored in the hip in 2019. Ruby recovered from the scuffle in which the pooch tried to run away from a mountain goat but it chased her down and “threw her in the air.” Ruby suffered a puncture wound to her hip.
“On the mountain, goats and wildlife have right of way,” TERT said in a statement. “We are guests in their space. The mountain goats on Timp are usually very mellow and will walk fairly close to people. Please keep your distance, even if it means delays on your hike.”
Cannon told Newsweek that the violent interaction is not common but said that when enjoying the outdoors, people and their pets need to be alert and prepared to encounter wildlife, saying, “it’s their house.”
“To have this kind of an interaction is not common, not unheard of, but definitely not at all common. As for why it’s happening with this frequency in the last three weeks, we can’t say. We hope it’s not something that’s a regular thing now.”
Cannon said local laws require that dogs be restrained on trails but said many people ignore the law and hike with their pets off leash.
“If somebody’s out there and hiking in the mountains and they take their dog and it’s not on leash, generally that’s not going to be a problem,” he said. “But they have to have the immediate ability to control the behavior of that dog.”
He advises pet owners to leave their dogs at home until local authorities can uncover more information about the mountain goat attacks.
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This article by Maura Zurick was first published by Newsweek on 22 August 2023. Lead Image: Mountain goats have killed three dogs in the last three weeks on Mount Timpanogos, a Utah mountain that’s a popular hiking and camping spot, local authorities told Newsweek. TIMPANOGOS EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM.