Utah mountain goats have shaggy white coats and derpy faces, unlike the type of goats that live on farms. But even if they don’t have the fearsome reputations of moose or bears, mountain goats are wild, and you should follow a few guidelines if you want to safely watch them scamper on steep rocks this spring.
First, give these hairy beasts lots of space, as much as half the length of a football field — this is good advice to follow around all large wild animals. Second, mountain goats like salt, so don’t urinate near trails or let them lick your skin. You never know when a seemingly friendly goat that’s slurping on your sweaty legs may decide to gore you for good measure (it happened in Idaho).
Goats can be jerks, but mountain goats are less likely to be jerks if they haven’t been given food or salt that could make them aggressive toward humans.
For safe goat-watching this month and in April, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says two spots are particularly popular with the animals: Rock Creek and Little Cottonwood Canyon.
On March 20, DWR is hosting a free viewing event near the Upper Stillwater Dam in the Rock Creek area, in Duchesne County. Biologists will be there to answer goat-related questions, and viewing equipment will be provided.
“Participants can usually see 10 to 30 mountain goats and other wildlife from Rock Creek Road, which runs through the canyon where the goats spend their winter months,” said Tonya Kieffer-Selby, DWR Northeastern Region outreach manager, in a news release on the agency’s website. “The Uinta Mountains are the largest contiguous block of mountain goat habitat in Utah, and mountain goat populations in the Uintas are doing well.”
Attendees should wear warm clothes and bring water, and face masks and social distancing will be required. The event could be canceled if COVID-19 restrictions change or the weather is bad, so call the Vernal DWR office the day before at 435-781-9453 to receive any updates.
Wildlife officials won’t be holding a formal viewing event in Little Cottonwood Canyon this year because the usual spot gets crowded easily, the release states. But according to DWR, a good goat-watching spot is the north park-and-ride lot at the mouth of the canyon.
Encounters between wildlife and humans have increased in Utah in recent years, according to DWR, especially as the state’s population grows and development expands. In October, a hiker survived being stalked by a female cougar in Provo’s Slate Canyon for six minutes. In a viral video he shot, he walked backward away from the animal while calling it a “stupid kitty cat.”