All posts by Nan Hassey

Goats Help Carry the Load During Hiking Trips

Published in Ellensburg Daily Record
Photos: Brian Myrick / Daily Record

Hikers venturing out in the Kittitas Valley might encounter familiar landscape — canyons, hills, sagebrush and shrub steppe.

They might also find something unexpected: five goats with pack saddles following docilely behind Dick Carkner.

Stitches, Inky, Lightning, Rambo and Thor are pack goats raised by Carkner to help carry gear during hiking trips. They follow behind Carkner, over trails and across country, hopping over gullies and displaying the athleticism their species is known for.

Carkner raised all five by hand, bottle-feeding them as kids, which is an important step in raising a pack goat, he said.

“It doesn’t take much training, the main thing is to have them properly socialized,” he said. “It’d be hard to find adult goats that have what you need.”

A good pack goat is well socialized and comfortable around people, which allows a pack goat handler to strap the saddles on to them without much fuss.

“You’re their mother, parent, dad, whatever,” he said.

Goats are naturally inclined to herd and will stay grouped together and follow their handler by instinct. Well socialized goats will be comfortable around humans. It can be a bit of a challenge when Carkner runs into other people out on the trail, though.

“I’ll stop and get talking to some people and then we go to move on, I look back and I’ve lost a goat,” he said, laughing.

Carkner began raising and working with pack goats a decade ago after being introduced the practice by his son. Since then, he’s had a number of goats. Inky, Lightning, Rambo and Thor are his newest group. The four are 3 years old, born in the same year and have just reached their prime.

Stitches is an older goat, 10 years old, and is the boss of the group.

“It’s a very distinct pecking order,” Carkner said, with the hierarchy being decided between the goats themselves.
When out hiking, the goats will typically follow in the same order every time, with the boss goat in front and the rest falling into their spots behind.

Besides their natural inclination to stay grouped together and follow their handler, goats are well suited as pack animals due to their natural athleticism.

“They can go places that wouldn’t be safe for a horse,” Carkner said.

Goats are also similar to deer and can graze on more plants than a horse could and don’t require as much water. Each adult goat can carry up to 25 percent of its body weight, which usually is around 50 pounds. However, Carkner usually keeps the loads to about 30 pounds.

“We don’t want to push it,” he said.

The loads are put into specially designed saddle bags that attach to goat-specific saddles that are strapped into place on the goat’s back. They are designed to stay in place when going over steep terrain.

The saddles and bags can be found online for purchase through a number of pack goat websites. The practice, while not widely-known, has been around for a number of years and has a strong community.

The North American Pack Goat Association was founded in 1999 and works to spread education about pack goats and keep public land open to pack goat use.

A pack goat will typical cost about $200 to purchase from a breeder, Carkner said. In a year, they will typically go through anywhere from $500 to $700 worth of feed and the saddles and gear can cost several hundred dollars as well.

The investment is worth it though, as each goat can continue to hike into their teens, as evidenced by Stitches, who is still going strong at 10 years old.

Goats, like dogs, wiggle their tails when they’re happy, Carkner said, and he sees it often when he’s out on the trail with his goats.

“This is what they like to do,” he said.

Urgent Message from President Curtis King

ATTENTION: To all current NAPgA and non-current NAPgA members, and all goat packing enthusiasts.

AN URGENT message from the President.

First, I would like to thank everyone that responded in writing to the comments on the ROD and EIS pertaining to the use of pack goats on the Shoshone NF in Wyoming during the open comments period. As most of you are already aware NAPgA has been in a long- standing battle over an illegal pack goat ban on the Shoshone National Forest. During this lengthy process NAPgA won a lawsuit against the Shoshone National Forest in 2016 when Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled in our favor. The Forest Service was ordered to go back to the drawing board, meet with NAPgA and write up a new “Risk Analysis of Disease Transmission” and “Environmental Impact Statement”.

During the summer of 2017, NAPgA representatives and our attorney Andrew Irvine met with The Shoshone NF, WY Department of Game and Fish, The Wild Sheep Foundation and The WSF Wyoming sheep working group in several pivotal meetings in Lander WY that resulted in a compromise that both sides could live with. NAPgA agreed to a pack goat closure in six critical core sheep habitat areas within the Shoshone with a possible corridor going around these core areas. The compromise was agreed to as most of the northern core areas are Grizzly Bear territory and were NOT COMMONLY USED AREAS by goat packers in Wyoming and nearby states.

The comments period has closed and the Regional Forester Brian Ferebee for the Shoshone National Forest has reached a decision. The plan calls for the closure of pack goats within the six described core Bighorn Sheep Habitat areas that are home to the most pristine Bighorn Sheep herds on the continent. They cannot be replaced.

The surrounding areas as well as the remainder of the Shoshone National Forest will remain open to goat packing with the requirement of a use permit and compliance of BMP’s Best Management Practices that will be issued by the Forest Service. NAPgA has asked to be involved in developing what the Permit process will look like and our request has been accepted.

NAPgA recently filed an objection to some of the language in the RADT, SDEIS plan during the objection process. NAPgA did not object to the forest plan. NAPgA did however object to a good portion of the language in the plan as it pertains to

the science. The best available science and the science referred to in the plan does not support that our pack goats are dangerous or pose any kind of a disease transmission risk to Bighorn Sheep. Andrew Irvine NAPgA’s very talented attorney wrote our objection letter to the forest service. The objection document is an absolute “masterpiece” and I encourage all of you to read and review it. The document is posted for your viewing located on the NAPgA website at

Folks, we are about enter the most critical and pivotal meeting that will most likely ever happen as it relates to your rights to use pack goats on public lands now and in the future. What happens in this meeting and in the objection process will pave the way for what happens with goat packing in the future with other forests and forest plans pertaining to pack goats. We have the summit in sight. Its within our grasp. We need your support to reach the top and stake our flag.

NAPgA has depleted most of our finances getting this far with so many legal fees that come along with such a legal battle in our continuing fight to keep public lands open to goat packing. I feel it is critical to our cause to have Andy present in this next objection meeting with the forest service. We anticipate that the next objection process meeting will take place in mid to late April of this year in Cody Wyoming. The cost for our legal services to get Andy and our objection letter to this next critical meeting will be approximately $1800 dollars. Without depleting our savings, we are about $1200 short of this amount. Your president and your board members strongly feel that that this is our last chance and final push to see all anecdotal and non-scientific references to pack goat disease transmission removed from these official government documents. The falsehoods need to stop. Any restrictions must be based on documented, factual research and peer-reviewed science, not hearsay, anecdotes and conjecture.

If you would like to see NAPgA continue this legal battle with the Shoshone, please consider donating to help us send Andy to the objection meeting in Cody. No amount is too small. If you know any pack goat enthusiast who have not yet renewed their memberships, please contact them and encourage them to join. There is strength in numbers and the membership fees go a long way toward helping pay these expenses. With that being said, your president is now “passing the hat” to all of you. We currently have 157 current members. If I can ask for just $10.00 from each member we can raise enough money to cover this expense by late April. Please help us obtain a victory for goat packing. We can do this and we will.

Donations can be made here: Donate | NAPgA
Here is the link for membership sign-ups:

Anyone can make a donation by either visiting our website using the PayPal, or send a check to:

NAPgA Treasurer
13 Norwood Pl.
Boise, ID 83716

Thank you for your continued support and “Long Live The Pack Goat”.
Curtis King
President, North American Pack Goat Association

Andy Irvine’s Response to Shoshone RADT and EIS

NAPgA’s lawyer, Andy Irvine, recently put together a wonderful response to the Shoshone NF Risk of Disease Transmission and Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Study, which both contained faulty science to justify banning packgoats from Bighorn Sheep territory. Every issue brought up in the Shoshone documents is addressed in detail. This is a long document but well worth the read. This is one of the things NAPgA’s money pays for, and the comments may well be applied to similar situations as they arise in other areas. Click the link below to access the full document.

Andy Irvine Comments

Potential Packgoat Ban in White Clouds Area, Idaho

Once again we stand to lose even more access to the wilderness in the new Idaho Land Use Plans being considered as we speak.
There is much in the Draft version of these plans to be of concern, but the primary information that needs to be responded to is in the EA’s for each of these plans. One is called the Hemingway-Boulders plan (HBWC), and the other the Jim McClure-Jerry Peaks plan (JMJP). BOTH must be responded to. The Deadline for Comment is November 26, 2017. 

The documents I have attached outline the problems that I see in each of these plans. However, there is one paragraph in each of the Environmental Assessments that is completely wrong in its entirety. It is found on Page 48 of the HBWC plan, and Page 46 of the JMJP plan. Our legal advisor, when presented with this paragraph noted, ‘There isn’t anything in this paragraph that is correct!’

This paragraph can be refuted in its entirety, and therefore needs to be the focus of your comments.

PLEASE, read over the attached document, and/or download the actual plans, and send in your comments as soon as possible. Even if you never think you will access or want to access this section of the white cloud wilderness, we desperately need your comments to add weight to what I will be sending.

Read Larry Robinson’s “Problems with Idaho Land Use Plans”


Comments for the Hemingway-Boulders need to be sent to:

Written comments must be submitted to the responsible officer:

• Send an email to: Please indicate “Wilderness Plan” in the subject line. Electronic comments must be submitted as an e-mail message, plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), or Word document (.docx).

  • Send a hardcopy letter to Sawtooth National Forest, 2647 Kimberly Road East, Twin Falls, Idaho 83301. For those submitting hand-delivered comments, business hours for the Sawtooth National Forest Supervisor’s Office are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.
  • Comments may also be submitted by fax to (208) 737-3236. Include your mailing address and phone number.

Comments for the Jim McClure-Jerry Peaks need to be sent to:

Written comments must be submitted to the responsible officer:

  • Send an email to: Please indicate “Wilderness Plan” in the subject line. Electronic comments must be submitted in a format such as an e-mail message, plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), and Word (.docx).
  • Send a hardcopy letter to: Salmon-Challis National Forest, Attn: Wilderness Plan; 1206 S. Challis Street, Salmon, ID 83467. The office business hours for those submitting hand- delivered comments are: 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.
  • Comments may also be submitted by FAX to 208-879-4198. Include your mailing address and phone number.

NAPgA Calendar 2018 Photo Contest!

Time to look through this year’s trips and submit your best photos for the NAPgA calendar contest! Photo submissions will be taken through Septemer 30th. Here’s how to do it:
Rules of the contest:
– Participants must be current NAPgA members.
– Participants must put their name in their photo’s description field.
– Each participant may submit up to five photos.
– To qualify for voting, photos MUST be in landscape orientation and high resolution. High resolution means at least 3300 x 2550 pixels.
– If these qualifications are not met, your photo cannot be used for the calendar no matter how many votes it receives! 
Here’s how to enter:
Go to
Sign in at top right with:
Username: napgaphotos
Password: calendar2018
(You may have to sign out of your current Yahoo! account or use an incognito window in order to do this).
Upload photos by clicking the little cloud and arrow icon in the top right corner.
Each person may upload up to five photos.
After your photos are uploaded, click the “Albums” link in the middle of the page. Click the “Create new album” link found to the right of the existing albums.
A line of photos will appear along the bottom of the page. Drag your photos into your album. Put your name in the album title so we know who submitted the photos.
Once your photos are in the album, click on each photo and add a title and description. In the description field please put the location where the photo was taken. You may also add names of goats, etc. if you like.
If you have any questions or trouble using the Flickr site, please contact
Now let’s see those awesome packgoat photos!


August Newsletter – Shoshone Comment Period Ends Soon!

Time is running out to comment on the latest Shoshone Environmental Impact Statement proposing to ban packgoats. This is important! The rules implemented in Shoshone will likely affect land use plans and decisions all over the West. NOW is the time to act! Please read the newsletter for information about how to comment on these proposals. If we stand back and say nothing, we have no right to complain when we get shut out.

CLICK HERE to download the newsletter.