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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
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Widow Sues USA for Fatal Mountain Goat Attack

TACOMA (CN) - The family of a man who was gored to death by a "monstrous" 370-lb. mountain goat in Olympic National Park sued the United States, saying the National Park Service failed to kill the animal despite numerous complaints about its aggressive behavior.

On Oct. 16, 2010, Susan Chadd says, "the inevitable happened" as she hiked with her husband, the late Robert Boardman, and a friend. They were on a popular trail near Klahhane Ridge when they encountered the goat, known as "Klahhane Billy."

"As they stopped for lunch near the end of this ridgetop section, Klahhane Billy showed up, immediately came within a few feet from their party and began harassing them and making threat displays," according to the federal complaint. "Members of the group decided it was best to head back down the trail, all sensing great terror that the goat might attack. They walked single file back along the very narrow trial along the ridge with Boardman in the rear. They had walked for about an hour, all the time being pursued and harassed by Klahhane Billy, who walked directly beside or behind Boardman. They hoped the goat would back off once they reached the well traveled trail junction at the top of the switchbacks. He did not.

"Susan Chadd and the friend went on ahead and suddenly heard a scream. They rushed back to where Boardman and the goat were and saw Boardman lying on the ground and the goat standing over him. Apparently Klahhane Billy had lowered his head, charged Robert Boardman and gored him through one thigh. The goat then remained over Robert Boardman and refused to move, preventing anyone from rendering aid, even after several bystanders and an off-duty National Park staffer appeared on the scene. They were only able to get Klahhane Billy to back off after the off-duty park staffer got advice on his radio to wave a space blanket at the goat. By the time anyone was able to get to Boardman, he had been lying still for more than 30 minutes, and the rescuers' attempts to resuscitate him met with no success."

Chadd says the Park Service "responded very slowly, given the gravity of the situation," and that it took more than an hour for a Coast Guard helicopter to dispatch an emergency medical technician.

The goat severed arteries in Boardman's leg, and he bled to death. Park rangers were sent to find the goat and shoot it.

"Sometime later, two park rangers appeared and began a search for the goat. They found him within minutes. The goat had blood on his horn. The rangers shot him to death. Many of these events were witnessed by plaintiff, Susan Chadd."

She says that "Klahhane Billy was a monstrous goat, weighing about 30 percent more than the average male. At his autopsy he weighed in at 370 pounds. In addition to his formidable size, Klahhane Billy was habituated to humans, did not show fear of humans and exhibited aggressive behavior toward humans on numerous occasions in the approximately four hears prior to Oct. 16, 2010. Many such incidents were reported by and to employees of the park.

"The Park Service destroyed some animals which exhibited much less aggression than Klahhane Billy, including native species, for which there had to be much more cause to justify destruction. In its treatment of Klahhane Billy, the Park Service violated its own policies and procedures regarding management of dangerous animals and protection of the public."

Chadd says that before the area became a National Park, a non-native species of mountain goat was introduced to develop a herd for hunting. By 1983 the herd had grown to more than 1,000 goats.

"As a non-native species, the goats were not entitled to the same protection as native species. Thus, the National Park Service could remove or destroy them for lesser cause than native species," the complaint states.

"In the 1990's the Park Service drafted a plan to remove the mountain goats as they were damaging the eco- structure. The Park Service removed several hundred by helicopter transport to native areas. Eventually that was considered too dangerous and the Park Service made the decision to shoot the remaining 200 to 300 goats and rid the park of them. Due to lobbying efforts by an animal rights group and political intervention, the Park Service spared the remaining goats."

Most of the surviving goats were "docile, not habituated with or dangerous to humans." But "there were exceptions," Chadd says, one of whom was Klahhane Billy.

"Employees of the Park Service failed to relocate or euthanize Klahhane Billy, even though he had become a clear threat to the public and was a member of an unprotected non-native species," she adds.

Chadd and Boardman's stepson, Jacob Haverfield, seek medical and funeral expenses, and damages for economic losses and pain and suffering. Chadd also seeks damages for the emotional distress she suffered by seeing her husband bleed to death, and the "slow response" of the Park Service.

She is represented by John Messina with Messina Bulzomi Christensen.

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