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Originally published October 17, 2010 at 9:26 PM | Page modified October 18, 2010 at 2:12 PM

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Mountain goat kills man in Olympic National Park

A 63-year-old hiker was fatally injured in Olympic National Park and rangers suspect an encounter with a mountain goat is to blame.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Mountain goatsoreamnos americanus

Park rangers advise taking precautions when dealing with mountain goats.

Keep your distance: Stay at least 100 feet away.

If one is aggressive: Yell and throw rocks to discourage it from coming closer.

No people food: Do not feed goats or any other wildlife.

Source: National Park Service

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Robert H. Boardman set out on a hike Saturday with his wife and a friend on an Olympic National Park trail popular because it is short, beautiful and close to town.

The Port Angeles man never completed it.

Boardman, 63, died after trying to shoo away a mountain goat at the top of Klahhane Ridge, about four miles north of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, National Park Service officials said Sunday.

He is believed to be the first person to have died in an incident involving an animal in the park, spokeswoman Barb Maynes said. Rangers found and killed the animal, which was to be taken to Monroe for a necropsy, she said.

Accounts of the incident are murky.

The goat began acting aggressively when Boardman, his wife, Susan Chadd, and their friend Pat Willits encountered the animal on the trail, according to an account in the Peninsula Daily News. Willits said Boardman told them to head back down the trail while he shooed the goat away.

Nobody saw the goat attack, but Willits said she and Boardman's wife heard him yell, the newspaper report said.

Other acquaintances — Jessica and Bill Baccus and their three children — were hiking the same trail. When they reached the saddle at the top of the trail, they found Willits, frantic and cellphone in hand. Willits told them a mountain goat had attacked Boardman and that the goat wouldn't let people get near him.

Boardman was lying motionless farther up the trail, about 100 feet away, while the animal stood over him, Jessica Baccus said.

"The mountain goat was terribly aggressive," she said. "It wouldn't move. It stared us down."

Bill Baccus, a park scientist, had his park radio and immediately called a dispatcher. Because Baccus has spent a lot of time around mountain goats, he led the effort to try to lure the goat away from Boardman.

Three people spread out along a slope, shouting and pelting the animal with rocks, Jessica Baccus said. The goat, distracted by the reflective light of a hiker's silver space blanket, finally backed away after about 15 minutes.

Helicopter dispatched

The first call for help came in around 12:30 p.m., the park service said, but Jessica Baccus, a former park ranger trained in first aid, wasn't able to reach Boardman to give him CPR until 1:20 p.m. He had no pulse and had blood on one leg, she said. Another hiker, meanwhile, kept an eye on the goat, still nearby.

Soon after Baccus started trying to resuscitate Boardman, a local doctor on a day hike came upon the group and took over, she said.

The U.S. Coast Guard arrived about 20 minutes later with a helicopter to airlift Boardman out of the park. The noise of the helicopter scared the goat away, Baccus said.

Boardman was taken to Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles, where he was pronounced dead, the park service said.

A musician of note

Boardman was an avid hiker and played guitar and mandolin for contradances, a type of folk dance, up and down the West Coast, family members said.

He also served as a diabetes educator at Olympic Medical Center and worked for many years as a nurse for the Makah and Lower Elwha Klallam tribes, according to the Peninsula Daily News. The musician helped organize community dances and once worked for The Leader newspaper in Port Townsend.

"He [Boardman] is a very visible member of the community here and much loved and respected," Baccus said.

About 300 goats live in the Olympic National Park, and rangers have been tracking eight or so that have acted aggressively toward hikers on trails in the Hurricane Ridge area, sometimes following people on trails or not getting out of the way when people approach, said Maynes, the park spokeswoman.

Rangers have shot nonlethal firecrackers and beanbag rounds at the animals, which are not native to the Olympic Mountains, to discourage them from approaching people, Maynes said. The park service had a program to relocate some goats to the Cascades in the 1980s in part because they were affecting the terrain, but the population rebounded in the 2000s.

Maynes said it is possible people have fed the animals. The Olympic Mountains also don't naturally produce a lot of salt, so goats and other animals, always on the hunt for it, sometimes are drawn to areas where people urinate on rocks, she said.

Rangers advise staying at least 100 feet from goats.

"The underlying fact is that wildlife is unpredictable, and that applies to all types of wildlife," Maynes said.

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or ntsong@seattletimes.com

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