Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Wayne Freimund

Commitee Members

Paul M. Lukacs, Elizabeth Covelli Metcalf


habituation, emotions and wildlife, Glacier National Park, mountain goats, human-wildlife interactions


University of Montana


This study examined interactions between visitors and mountain goats on the most heavily used trail in Glacier National Park. The primary objective was to give park managers a baseline of unbiased, reliable data with which to make informed decisions and improve the quality of interactions between visitors and mountain goats. Secondarily, this research was intended to achieve a thorough understanding of both human and wildlife responses during interactions on publically protected lands. The study was conducted over a two month period during the summer of 2013, and it was purely observational. Observations were recorded five days a week for approximately six hours each day, between the hours of 8 AM and 8 PM. Focal sampling and scan sampling methods were used to collect data on goat and visitor behaviors as well as emotional responses. Information was also collected on setting attributes (e.g. weather, time), the duration of interactions, the distance between mountain goats and visitors and the elevation of mountain goats relative to visitors. Results show that mountain goats along Hidden Lake Trail exhibited significantly different behaviors during interactions compared to when no interaction was occurring. In addition, the behaviors that mountain goats exhibited more frequently during interactions were more energy costly. Negative interactions occurred 42% of the time, but typically only one negative behavior was observed in these interactions, and the behavior was low in intensity. The likelihood of an interaction occurring was largely influenced by environmental variables such as weather, time of day and the location of mountain goats relative to visitors, while the duration of interactions was affected by the number of mountain goats present and the elevation of mountain goats relative to visitors. Ninety percent of all interactions were emotional experiences for visitors, and 95% of the emotions exhibited were positive in nature. Emotional responses varied based on the distance between mountain goats and visitors, time of day, weather, visitor group composition and the number of mountain goat kids present. Twelve emotional responses (both positive and negative) were also significantly correlated with duration. These findings illustrate the importance of understanding both wildlife and human responses, including emotional responses during interactions. Without the awareness of both, our knowledge is incomplete and effective management decisions cannot be made.



© Copyright 2014 Sarah Ilene Markegard