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Explained: Utah's mysterious goat man (complete with fake horns)

July 25, 2012|By John M. Glionna

He’s been spotted out in the dusty wilds of Utah, lurking among the four-hoofed creatures on his hands and knees. He wears a funny suit with horns and a phony beard. And he’s developing a public following.

He is… Goatman. And he’s baaaaaaaad...

Wildlife authorities have expressed concern: What exactly is this guy doing  in the mountains of northern Utah dressed in a goat suit among a herd of wild goats?

Is he an extreme wildlife enthusiast? Or someone on a deranged back-to-nature trip?

“He’s got a following. People have called. Some like him, but others have said some pretty mean things,” Phil Douglass of the Utah Divison of Wildlife Resources told the Los Angeles Times.

As with the Loch Ness Monster, there have been sightings.

Earlier this month, a hiker on Ben Lomond peak in the mountains above Ogden, about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, spied a person dressed like a goat among a herd of real goats. The hiker snapped some shots, not sure that the air wasn't getting thin and he was simply hallucinating.

He provided some blurry photographs to wildlife authorities, who said they did not appear to have been altered.

Douglass told reporters that the man wasn’t breaking any laws, but he worried that the man might be in danger as hunting season approaches. He said 60 permits will be issued for goat hunting in that area this season, which begins in September. He worries the goat man might be accidentally shot or attacked by a real goat.

A few days, ago, Douglass said wildlife officials received an anonymous call from an "agitated man" after the sighting was reported in local media. The caller simply said: "Leave goat man alone. He's done nothing wrong.'"

Coty Creighton told the Associated Press that he spotted a herd of goats a few weekends back, but noticed something odd about one goat that was trailing behind the rest.

"I thought maybe it was injured," Creighton said. "It just looked odd."

He said he pulled out binoculars to get a closer look at the herd about 200 yards away and was shocked. It was a man who appeared to be acting like a goat while wearing a crudely made costume, which had fake horns and a cloth mask with cut-out eye holes, Creighton said.

"I thought, 'What is this guy doing?'" Creighton said. "He was actually on his hands and knees. He was climbing over rocks and bushes and pretty rough terrain on a steep hillside."

Creighton said the man occasionally pulled up his mask, apparently trying to navigate the rocky terrain. The man then appeared to spot Creighton. "He just stopped in his tracks and froze," he said.

Creighton moved down the mountain and hid behind a tree, then began snapping photographs. The goat man then put his mask back on, Creighton said, got back down on his hands and knees and scurried to catch up with the herd. "We were the only ones around for miles," Creighton said. "It was real creepy."

But … this just in: Douglass received a call this week that he says has solved the mystery.

As it turns out, a hunter from Southern California called Utah officials this week after reading about the nationwide publicity and figured he would set the matter straight.

“The guy told me he was preparing for a big Rocky Mountain goat hunt in Canada next year,” Douglass told The Times. “He was an archery expert and he wanted to make sure he could get close enough for a good kill, so he practiced goat stalking in Utah for four days.”

Douglass characterized the man as an experienced hunter. “After I talked with this person, I was satisfied he understood the risk,” he said.

Douglass says he advises younger archery hunters to try and get close enough for a one-shot kill, so the animal doesn’t suffer. “That’s what this guy was practicing for,” he said.

“I still have some reservations about people putting goat suits on when there are guys with rifles out there, but he says he will be hunting in a remote spot in Canada.”

Douglass said the man preferred to remain anonymous.

“The media coverage has been extensive – all of it gathered around what in many people’s minds was a mysterious and bizarre act,” he said. “In reality, in today’s world many people don’t have that tie to the land and have forgotten things like hunting traditions and primitive hunting methods that the Native Americans employed.

“This is a throwback to a time when Native Americans put on skins. This guy went to a home-improvement store, bought a suit and fixed it up with horns and a beard. And for him, it worked.”

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john.glionna@latimes.com

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