Editor’s Note

The Goats Who Stare at Men

On Klahhane Ridge in the Olympics, October 16, 2010, the forces of nature head butted human incursion to the ground.

By James Ross Gardner June 8, 2015 Published in the June 2015 issue of Seattle Met

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By the time we brought in the Tyrannosaurus rex, the madness had taken hold. You can see it for yourself on page 42. We’d already posed a dog—a lovely blue-eyed husky—on page 33 and would soon toss in four more, on page 64, thinking it would satisfy our compulsion. 

But no, there are animals crawling all over this issue: the dinosaur, the canines, a pig in our “Next Hot Chefs” feature starting on page 66, Mickey Mouse on page 48, Dennis Miller on page 45. 

Or take the knowledge senior editor Allison Williams drops on us in the cover story about the Kettle River Range, which retains “the wildlife that was here before the West was settled: wolves, caribou, moose, even grizzly bears.”

Now here I am introducing one more. Because when I think of the beasts of the Pacific Northwest, I think of Klahhane Billy.

Klahhane Billy was a big mean son of a bitch. Three hundred seventy pounds, bigger than two men, he liked to skulk along Switchback Trail on Klahhane Ridge in Olympic National Park and chase hikers with his horns—two boulder-size crescent razors—a wild animal unafraid of humans.

Those humans threw rocks, dodged when he charged, left notes of caution for their fellow hikers. “Very aggressive Mt. goat @ Klahane Ridge [sic],” read one warning taped to a trailhead sign. “Chased me down 6 switchbacks. Whew! Not impressed with rocks, yelling, etc.”

National park employees attempted to “haze” the fiend in July 2009 with a beanbag gun. Klahhane Billy was undeterred and remained the subject of interdepartmental lore, referred to by his nickname or, as in one email thread, “cranky goat,” until, on October 16, 2010, he fatally gored a 63-year-old man. Within hours the National Park Service caught up with the homicidal ungulate and shot him to death.

The goat’s presence on the mountain was dubious to begin with; he and his lineage are nonnative to the Olympics. But back in the 1920s humans thought it would be a blast to introduce a dozen of the goats to the mountain range. The herd grew to more than a thousand by the early 1980s. They trampled the alpine vegetation and, like Billy, stared down hikers, whose urine—yes, human urine—they sought out for the salt and mineral content. The herd has dwindled, but about 300 remain, and the park service is still determining how best to deal with them—remove, kill, or haze.

I suppose wildlife management is a little like magazine making. You can always introduce an animal to the equation, but there’s often a price. Speaking of which, someone really should haze that mouse on page 48.

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