Olympic provides wonderful opportunities to view animals in their natural habitat. Along with this opportunity come risks and responsibilities for park visitors. If you are fortunate enough to see wildlife during your visit, do not approach, startle, or feed the animal. Feeding, harassing, or molesting wildlife is strictly prohibited in the park and subject to fines.
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.
Species of concern at Olympic include mountain goats, black bears, and cougars.
Mountain Goats: Please submit a Mountain Goat Incident Form if you experience an encounter with a mountain goat, such as a mountain goat refusing to yield the trail, aggressive posturing, or approaching people at a distance of less than 50 yards.
Bears: Please submit a Black Bear Incident Form if you experience an encounter with a bear, such as a bear approaching you at a distance of less than 50 yards, a bear entering your campsite, or a bear that attempts to take your food.
Cougars: Please submit a Cougar Report Form if you observe or encounter a cougar in the park. Please report ALL cougar observations.
Mountain Goat Safety
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.
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This U.S. Forest Service video provides guidance for people recreating in areas where they are likely to have interactions with mountain goats.
Bats and Rabies
Bats are an important and enjoyable part 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:
If you see a cougar, you are one of the few to have seen this elusive creature! Do not approach, but face the animal, speak firmly, wave your arms and back away.
Cougars, also called mountain lions, range throughout the Olympics. Seldom seen, cougars are large animals, often over 100 pounds, with long rope-like tails. They are usually reddish-tan to gray-brown with black markings on the face and tail tip. Report all cougar sightings to a ranger. The cougar is a potentially dangerous animal, although attacks on humans are rare. If you see a cougar:
Minimize bear encounters by keeping a clean camp and storing food properly.
There have been several instances of aggressive bears in the Olympics. No injuries have been reported, but property was damaged and bears have acted in a threatening manner. If you meet a bear on the trail, give it a wide berth. If a bear comes into camp, make noise to scare the bear away. If it is intent on getting your food or other property, do not risk injury. In the face of repeated encounters, leave the area, with or without your property as appropriate. Notify park staff in all instances of food loss or property damage, or any other threatening acts by bears. Read “Food Storage.”
During warm weather, black flies, deer flies, horse flies, and mosquitoes can be a nuisance. Wearing insect repellent, long sleeved shirts and long pants may help. Yellow jackets are common in warm weather, and may nest in rotten logs or in the ground.
There are no poisonous snakes in the Olympics.
Deer are found nearly everywhere in the wilderness and show little fear of humans. Do not feed deer. They can be dangerous, striking out with their hooves or antlers. Feeding deer can also be harmful to their health. They crave the salt found in human urine, feces and food. An inadequately dug cat hole can be a deer's delight, so bury human waste properly. Deer ticks have been found in the north part of the park, but no cases of Lyme disease have been reported.
Mothers of some animals may become dangerous if you disturb their young. Never get between a female bear and her cub. Young animals, such as fawns, may be temporarily left by their mother. Do not be tempted to pick up these young animals, even if you think something is wrong with them. A lingering human scent can lead to abandonment.
Last updated: February 25, 2017