On Saturday, August 19, a mountain goat on Utah’s Mount Timpanogos sent an off-leash retriever tumbling over a cliff to its death as the dog owner watched from a nearby hiking trail. In prior weeks, two other dog owners looked on as mountain goats on the same peak fatally gored their unleashed pups. It is a growing trend that concerns Utah wildlife and law enforcement officials.
“It was reported that the dog was harassing a female mountain goat and she had two babies—or kids—with her,” Utah County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Spencer Cannon told Cowboy State Daily. “And the goat apparently decided, ‘I’ve had enough of this’ and went after the dog.”
According to Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) spokeswoman Faith Heaton Jolley, Mount Timpanogos is a very popular high-elevation hike where such encounters have been known to happen over the years. Since the goats are accustomed to human presence and tend to use some of the same trails as humans, off-leash dogs are at risk—especially when kids are with nannies. The DWR advises that people either leave their dogs at home when hiking the mountain, or ensure that they remain leashed at all times.
While Mount Timpanogos sits in a designated wilderness area with no legal requirement that dogs be leashed, Cannon said he strongly encourages hikers to keep their dogs on a leash. “We don’t have any rouge mountain goats up there deliberately charging people or using their horns just for fun,” the sheriff’s office spokesman told Cowboy State Daily. “In each of these instances, we think the mountain goats felt threatened by the dogs.”
Four days before the incident with the black Lab, a goldendoodle met a similar fate, but instead of falling off a cliff, it was gored to death by a mountain goat. “I came upon this girl sobbing on top of her dog,” hiker Melissa Willie told KSL News. “I got closer, and she was just covered in her dog’s blood and she said that the goat had killed it.”
The Timpanogos Emergency Response Team posted a statement about the Lab incident on their Facebook page. They also reported that another dog was gored to death one week earlier, though they did not provide details.
According to the Utah Mountain Goat Statewide Management Plan, there are approximately 1,900 mountain goats in the Beehive State. The Mount Timpanogos area is also home to deer, black bears, moose, and mountain lions. While mountain goats can often avoid predators by climbing into steep terrain, bears, wolverines, eagles, and wolves occasionally prey on them.