July 16th, 2011
Anyone who takes a trip to the back country needs to know some basics about the trails they're hiking and its wild life. There could be a poisonous plant or even a dangerous animal that may not look threatening, but could win you a trip to the hospital. In one of our past blogs we talked about the Rock Squirrel in the Grand Canyon. This small creature looks like just another squirrel, but it is actually the most dangerous animal in Grand Canyon National Park. Researching your hiking destination; such as weather, climate, trail conditions, flora, fauna, water availability and even geology, can keep you safe and get you back home without any problems. If you do not research your destination you could wind up with a bad run in with a mountain goat like hiker Robert Boardman.
Up in Olympic National Park in October 2010, a couple stopped for a lunch break at Klahhane Ridge when they were approached by a mountain goat. The husband (Robert Boardman) tried to shoo the goat away, but instead it gored him in the leg and hovered over him with rage. A nearby ranger had to throw rocks at the goat before it finally moved away. Boardman was rushed to the Port Angeles hospital where he died shortly after. Park officials stated that the goat had shown aggressive behavior in the past but there was no reason to warrant the next level of removal of these goats. There had been no incidences like this before and the park is doing everything they can to learn more and prevent more attacks in the future. Signs have been posted since then, warning hikers to keep their distance from the goats, and in some cases have closed trails where the goats are frequent.
There are around 300 mountain goats in this area each weighing around 300 pounds and standing up to 3ft at the shoulder, and should not be messed with. After researching some of the reasons for this attack, park scientists have concluded that the goat could have been attracted to the group because of urine. These mountain goats have been known to lick the urine for salt deposits. Because of this, rangers in Olympic National Park and several other national parks have recently set boundaries on where hikers can do their business. Visitors are advised to urinate at least 200 ft from any mark trails, and if they can spare some water, pour some on it after to dilute it a little. Goats are not the only animals in the world that are attracted to urine. Animals like bears, deer, polar bears, cougars, and lions are as well. All these animals may not be attracted to the salt in urine like goats, but the smell gets them interested in what's out there and they will come to investigate. Even animals like sharks are attracted to the smell of new bodily fluids like urine. If you've seen the movie The Rundown you have also heard of the candiru parasite in the Amazon that follow the urine trail up a humans' urethra into the body, where it sticks and can cause serious pain and there are stories that it even caused death in some by hemorrhaging.
"Don't pee in the water. Why? A candiru, a vicious parasite will swim up the urine into your pau. Swim up my what? Your pinto. It'll swim up your ding-dong. And once it gets in, you can't get it out. Well, then what? They have to amputate. Not this boy's pinto. Uh-uh, not today!"
This old tale may not be entirely true, but either way it is important for travelers to watch where they pee and do all they can to stay safe on the trail.