Olympic provides wonderful opportunities to view animals in their natural setting. Along with this opportunity come risks and responsibilities for park visitors. Feeding, harassing, or molesting wildlife is strictly prohibited in the park and subject to fines. All wildlife and wildlife encounters come with inherent risks to visitors. If you are fortunate enough to see wildlife during your visit, do not approach, startle, or feed the animal. Although wild animals are generally fearful of humans and will move away, if they do not move away or move closer, it is your responsibility to move away and maintain a distance of at least 50 yards. Wild animals –even those that seem 'tame' –can pose a potential hazard to people, whether through the spread of disease or through direct physical contact.
Species of concern at Olympic include mountain goats, Roosevelt elk, deer, and black bear, which are often seen throughout the park, including parking lots, on park roads, and along trails. Although less frequently seen, cougars (also known as mountain lions) are also present in the park. All park wildlife are potentially dangerous to humans and can sometimes be unpredictable. Following some basic guidelines may help to lessen the threat of danger and will help to keep wildlife wild.
Observe wildlife from a distance. All wildlife is protected in the park. Park regulations require that all visitors maintain a distance of at least 50 yards (half the length of a football field) between themselves and any park wildlife. Do not approach wildlife. If an animal approaches closer than 50 yards, move away to maintain the minimum required distance of separation.
Never feed wild animals. This includes all park animals;birds, squirrels, marmots, deer, otters etc., not just bears. Learning to beg for and/or rely on human foods is extremely harmful for all wild animals, big or small. Be careful not to leave wrappers, crumbs, or other food trash after picnicking or snacking on the trails. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers. Feeding wildlife can alos increase risks to you and other visitors.
Keep children close. Keep children within your immediate sight at all times.
Avoid wildlife during sensitive times.This includes times when animals are mating, nesting, raising young, and during winter.
Avoid setting up camp on or near game trails. Hike and camp away from obvious animal paths, water sources, and signs like droppings or claw marks. Keep your camp clean. Cook and eat away from your sleeping area. Store your food by locking it in your vehicle or using a bear-proof storage container when in frontcountry campsites. When camping in wilderness areas of the park, all food, garbage, and scented items such as toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, toiletries, and chapstick, must be stored in bear canisters, hung from park bear wires, or hung at least 12 feet high and 10 feet out from the nearest tree trunk. Bears and most other wildlife are active 24 hours a day;have all food and scented items secured 24 hours a day.
Mountain goats may approach people in the park. Some have grown accustomed to being fed and, as a result, have lost their fear of people. This can potentially lead to aggressive behavior. Goats may "stand their ground" if encountered on the trail. Mountain goats also crave the salts found in human sweat and urine. They may follow people to obtain sweat soaked clothing or hiking gear. Male goats may become particularly aggressive during the autumn and early winter breeding season (October through December).
Goats have sharp, potentially lethal horns.
Following these guidelines, as well as the general wildlife guidelines, may help reduce the risk of harm to you and other park visitors.
If you encounter a mountain goat within 50 yards, please report it to the closest ranger station.
Bats and Rabies
Bats are important and enjoyable parts of the Olympic ecosystem, where they are often seen as they feed on insects after dark. However, in the Pacific Northwest approximately 1% of bats are estimated to be infected with rabies and exposure can be fatal.
An exposure to rabies most commonly occurs when a person is bitten by a rabid animal. It can also be transmitted when the saliva from a rabid animal comes in contact with a person's mouth, eyes, nose, or a fresh wound.
The risk of acquiring rabies is extremely low, but the disease is fatal if not treated early after exposure, making it vitally important to treat any possible threat of exposure seriously. When a person is exposed to rabies, timely administration of a vaccine known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can prevent infection.
Bats have small sharp teeth and may not leave a visible bite mark on the skin. Any bat encounter or exposure should be immediately reported to a park ranger and the person should consult a health professional.
The following guidelines can help minimize risk of rabies infection: