SALT LAKE CITY - A man spotted dressed in a goat suit among a herd of wild goats in the mountains of northern Utah has been identified as a hunter preparing for a Canadian archery season.
After a hiker spotted the so-called goat man on July 15 in the mountains above Ogden, about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, wildlife officials said they wanted to talk to the person to be certain he was aware of the dangers as hunting season approaches.
They speculated he might have been an extreme wildlife enthusiast who just wanted to get as close as possible to the goats. A few days after the spotting, state wildlife authorities received an anonymous call from an "agitated man" who simply said, "Leave goat man alone. He's done nothing wrong."
This week, however, the mystery was solved.
Phil Douglass of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said he received a call Monday from a 57-year-old Southern California hunter who explained he was merely trying out his goat suit in preparation for a mountain goat hunt in Canada next year.
"He gave me enough details about the area and the situation that it made me feel confident this was him," Douglass said Tuesday.
"In talking to him, I felt he was very knowledgeable, a very experienced hunter. He's hunted internationally," Douglass added. "My concern all along was that this person needed to understand the risks, and certainly after talking to him, I felt he was doing the best he could to understand and mitigate those risks ... He was simply preparing for a hunt."
The man did not identify himself, Douglass said, noting the hunter was concerned for his safety after widespread media coverage of the sighting, first reported by the Standard-Examiner of Ogden.
Coty Creighton, 33, spotted the goat man July 15 during his hike. He said he came across a herd, but noticed something odd about one goat that was trailing behind the rest.
"I thought maybe it was injured," Creighton said last week. "It just looked odd."
He said he pulled out binoculars to get a closer look at the goats about 200 yards away and was shocked. The man 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.
"We were the only ones around for miles," he said. "It was real creepy."
Douglass said 60 permits will be issued for goat hunting season in that area, which begins in September, and he had worried the man in the goat suit might be accidentally shot or could be attacked by a real goat.
He said the hunter described the goat costume as merely a hooded painter's uniform and a fleece.
Douglass said wildlife officials encourage archery hunters to practice their skills and to "get themselves in a position where they make a clean and humane shot."
"That's exactly what he was doing," Douglass said. "There are laws that require people to wear hunter orange during rifle hunts, but people do wear camo during archery hunts."
And while it's not illegal to dress up like the animal you're trying to kill, Douglass said it's still dangerous.
"It's unwise," he said. "It's just a bad idea all the way around to do that kind of thing."