Motorists stopped for road work on Highway 14 between Carson and Stevenson have been held up just long enough to spot a mountain goat which has taken to watching traffic from atop a cliff.
Pictures of the goat have circulated on social media since November 2020. Enough of them have reached Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologist Carly Wickhem that she called the goat “locally famous.”
Wickhem said mountain goats inhabit much of the Cascade Range. She said populations of goats exist near Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams, and hikers have reported a few goats around Dog Mountain for at least the last five years.
Cascade Locks resident Mackenzie Callahan said her family in Carson first saw the goat close to two years ago.
“The goat has been there for quite a while and seems to love it there,” she said.
Wickhem said this goat’s behavior is not abnormal as “goats do tend to wander” and typically aren’t very afraid of humans.
“It’s not uncommon for them to go on longer walks,” she said.
Wickhem said the goats on Mount St. Helens exemplify this penchant for wandering. The volcano’s goat population was wiped out by the 1980 eruption, but new goats filled the habitat naturally and the current group is healthy and growing.
Mountain goats typically stick to rocky, high-elevation areas where they contend with fewer predators and gain an advantage from their thick coats, Wickhem said.
“I would say it’s probably not ideal habitat, but in the winter there’s probably more food down there,” Wickhem said.
She said biologists have watched social media posts about the goat and are concerned that people will try to approach or feed the goat. Wickhem said people should never feed wildlife. Animals’ digestive systems evolve to eat specific foods and the wrong food can cause disease or malnourishment, she said.
Feeding wildlife teaches animals to associate humans with food. This makes them more likely to have a later interaction with people that leads to the animal being euthanized, she said.