Olympic visitors reminded to keep 50 yards from animals

Olympic National Park Visitors are reminded to keep their distance from park wildlife and observe animals from no closer than 50 yards.

Park regulations require all visitors to maintain a distance of at least 50 yards — half the length of a football field — between themselves and any park wildlife. If an animal gets closer than 50 yards, visitors are required to move away to maintain the minimum distance.

“Wild animals — even those that seem tame — can pose potential hazards to people, whether through the spread of disease or through direct physical contact,” Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said in a news release. “Visitors should always maintain a distance of at least 50 yards from any park wildlife.”

While not common, attacks on humans do occur in national parks, resulting in injuries and death. An Olympic National Park visitor was fatally gored by a mountain goat while hiking along Klahhane Ridge in 2010.

Of concern are the park’s mountain goats, Roosevelt elk, deer and black bears, which can be seen throughout the park, including parking lots, on park roads and along trails, the release said. All wildlife, including these species of concern, are potentially dangerous to humans. Although less frequently seen, cougars are large predators and also potentially dangerous to humans.

The 50-yard viewing distance is required for all animals, including smaller animals like raccoons, rodents and birds, all of which can carry diseases transmissible to humans.

“Even small animals pose a risk to people, especially children, and parents should be mindful of keeping their children within sight at all times and well away from wildlife,” Creachbaum said in the release.

A census done three years ago showed the mountain goat population was increasing at an annual rate of about 5 percent since 2004. With increasing numbers of goats in the park, there is an increased likelihood that visitors will see or encounter goats, park managers said.

Wild animals that become accustomed to human presence can lose their fear of humans. This can lead to safety hazards for both visitors and wildlife.

In 2011, park rangers killed a male mountain goat that had become aggressive and unafraid of people. Also that year, a female Roosevelt elk was killed after threatening and charging visitors in the Hoh Rain Forest.