By Dillon Thomas
VAIL, Colo. (CBS4) – Hikers in the Colorado Rocky Mountains often encounter wildlife while they attempt to summit local mountains. However, most cannot say they’ve had a wild mountain goat lick their back and head.
Ashby Capito, a Vail resident, was hiking on Monday when she stopped to have breakfast along the trail. Capito told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas a herd of mountain goats surrounded her during her break.
“It was the craziest situation. I just kind of sat there,” Capito said.
While Capito and a friend kept their distance, one of the wild animals approached her.
“He started licking (my backpack). And, he literally licked it for like five minutes,” Capito said.
Rebecca Ferrell, spokesperson for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said mountain goats are attracted to sources of salt.
“We have gotten a lot of goats licking cars, licking salt off of cars. It appears they really like salt,” Ferrell said.
“I think he realized I was the source of the sweat on the backpack, so he started licking my back. And he started circling me, and he started licking my hat,” Capito said. “I just kind of let him do his thing.”
For Capito, it was an experience to remember. Capito first discovered her love for mountain goats years ago while in Wyoming.
“A lot of my friends call me ‘the goat whisperer,’ and ‘the goat girl’,” Capito said.
Ferrell said the goat enthusiast did the right thing by night feeding or petting the goats. However, in future situations, Ferrell encouraged those who encounter wild mountain goats to try and scare the goats back.
“Mountain goats, in general, are pretty laid back,” Ferrell said. “Generally, we ask people to try and haze a little bit. (Capito) may not have realized that that would be the appropriate thing. It is better for animals to keep a healthy fear, and distance, from us.”
Ferrell said, unlike encountering a bear, it does not take much action to properly haze the average goat. Ferrell said clapping, some sounds, and gesturing away the animal, are usually enough to get the message to the goat.
Capito said she was simply thrilled to have such an innocent experience with one of her favorite animals.
“Having that experience, I can probably die a happy woman today, to be honest with you,” Capito said.
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.