Technical Report

A History of Native Elk in Mount Rainier National Park
Paul Schullery


Many of the earliest approaches to the mountain were written about more than once, quite often several times, including in reminiscences made many years later. In order to keep the following presentation as brief and yet complete as possible, I have tried to choose in each case the single account of each episode that is most revealing. The most exhaustive published listing of accounts of climbers in this period appears in Haines (1962).

1852, The Columbian

(climb occurred about the middle of August, the route being up the Nisqually River and up the south side of the mountain)

They fared sumptuously on the game afforded by the mountain, which they found very numerous, in the shape of brown bear, mountain goat, deer, etc., with an endless variety of the feathered game.

1854 or 1855, McWhorter, 1917

(a climb by two still-unidentified white men in the company of Yakima Indian named Sluskin; approach was from the east, with a camp at Mystic Lake. The account is by the Indian, told to McWhorter)

(first, near the terminus of Emmons Glacier, the following reference tells of the killing of a fawn)

The tall man killed a young yamas.

(next, discussing a "Sum-sum," or sharp ridge of unknown location but presumably near Winthrop and Emmons Glaciers, he tells of wou, or goats)

The Sum-sum runs down from the mountain. It was covered with wou.

The men asked me if I could catch sheep for them. I tell them no; only when have young ones. They said: "If you catch one, we will buy it, big one." I never try to catch that sheep; to wild.

(An interesting variation of this account appeared in the Tacoma Daily News on November 30, 1915, "Sluiskin Tells True Story of Mountain." A brief excerpt follows. It is noteworthy that the clipping of this account in the McWhorter Papers at Pullman has been annotated by McWhorter; where the original clipping says "We see no goats, McWhorter has changed it to "We see plenty goats." This suggests that both goats and sheep were seen.)

There were no white people living here when I guided to the mountain... We saw lots of deer, lots of sheep, We see no goats (Tacoma Daily News, 1915).

1855, Suckley

(he is discussing three goats)

Obtained in the Cascade mountains north of Mount Rainier, by Lieutenant Nugen, United States Army; another from the Upper Nisqually.

1857, Kautz

(from his original journal of the trip taken in July, the first entry is from a few miles downstream from the terminus of Nisqually Glacier, on July 12)

We have seen no game so far; we saw a large red wolf yesterday but he got out of the way as soon as possible. We see plenty of signs of deer and Bear, but met with only one or two grouse. The Indian and the men get along very well so far. The Dr. does not bear the fatigue well.

13th M. We were all much gratified that the Indian killed a deer this morning which he brought in and of which we eat plentifully. We spend the morning in drying the remainder of it...

(Later on the trip, while on or near the Nisqually Glacier, Kautz saw some marmots and mistakenly associated them with the footprints of goats. This account is not in his journal, appearing in a popular article published years later.)

The only living things to be seen were some animals, with regard to which we still labor under an error. These little creatures would make their appearance on the side of the mountain in sight of our camp, and feed upon herbage that grew on the soil where the snow left it bare. The moment anyone stirred from camp, a sound between a whistle and scream would break unexpectedly and from some unknown quarter, and immediately all the animals that were in sight would vanish in the earth. Upon visiting the spot where they disappeared, we would find a burrow which was evidently the creatures' home. Everywhere around the entrance we found great numbers of tracks, such as a lamb or kid would make . . . We are still at a loss to understand the habits of the creatures, and to reconcile the split hoofs which the tracks indicated with their burrow in the earth (Kautz, 1876).

1870, Stevens

(The party crossed the Tatoosh Range and ascended by the Gibraltar route. Their guide was a Yakima named Sluiskin, a different person than the "Sluskin" of the 1854 or 1855 ascent, whose name has also been spelled "Saluskin." The party made their climb in August)

Sluiskin had frequently hunted mountain sheep upon the snowfields of Tacoma.

The broad snow-fields, over which he had so often hunted the mountain-goat . . .

We found many fresh tracks and signs of the mountain-sheep upon the snowfields, and hair and wool rubbed off upon rocks, and places where they had lain at night. The mountain-sheep of Takhoma is much larger than the common goat, and is found only upon the loftiest and most secluded peaks of the Cascade Range. Even Sluiskin, as skillful hunter and accustomed to the pursuit of this animal for years, failed to kill one, notwithstanding he hunted assiduously during our entire stay upon the mountain.

(P.B. Van Trump, 1870, who accompanied Stevens on this climb, reported that Sluiskin had a "fruitless search for mountain goats," so we cannot be sure if the party knew sheep from goats.)

Emmons, 1870

(The party climbed the mountain from the Nisqually Valley, up to near Little Tahoma, and across Cowlitz Glacier and then up by Gibraltar. The first reference is to a group of Cowlitz Indians.)

. . . two of their number were induced to guide us to the foot of Mount Rainier by a path known to them in their hunting excursions.

(The following occurred during an outing taken from their base camp along Cowlitz Glacier.)

Here we came suddenly upon a little band of mountain goats, who, when aware of our presence, fled with most remarkable rapidity up the icy slopes, crossing crevasses and ascending impossible steeps with the greatest ease. We watched them with wonder as they grew smaller and smaller in the distance, and finally disappeared among the ice-cascades of the steep mountain-side. This rare animal, the Azama montana of science, which is found only on the slopes of these snowy peaks, and there in limited numbers, is a very distinct animal from the big-horn or Rocky Mountain sheep. It is a low, heavy-built animal, rather larger than a good-sized ram, snow-white in color, having a thick fur of mixed hair and wool, a long white beard, and two little, black, curved horns like those of the chamois. It passes its day among the snows, only coming down at early dawn to browse upon the fresh green grass along their lower edge. Our Indians, taking advantage of this habit, after concealing themselves for two nights near one of their favorite grazing grounds, succeeded in killing one, which they sold to us, and which was a most timely addition to our scanty larder, saving us, as it proved in the end, from possible starvation.

1881-1882, Willis

(This is the Willis article quoted in the discussion of elk sightings in the park; his visit to the area around Crescent Mountain prompted these remarks.)

The lower slopes are heavily timbered, but at an elevation of 4,000 feet juniper and dwarf pine are dotted over the grassy hillside. Elk, deer and white mountain goats find here grassy pasture; their trails look like well trodden sheep paths on a New England Hill.

1883, Stampfler

(Joseph Stampfler reported the 1883 climb by Bayley, Van Trump, and Longmire; below is his account of how Longmire and Indian Henry discovered Longmire Springs)

The two men ran across a deer trail which led off of Rampart Mountain into the swamp . . . The deer trail led to the springs now known the world over as Longmire's. The first discovered was the one that is now known as "gas well," in the Longmire Ranch Yard. It was there the deer had been drinking.

1884, Fobes

(This climb took place in late August. The first report is from near a camp in Spray Park.)

. . . there came trotting over the snowdrift toward me what at first seemed a huge collie dog, but which I was soon satisfied was a wolf. He was a great gray fellow, twice as large as a Newfoundland, long and lank. As he came up within about fifty feet he grinned savagely, showing his long white teeth.

(Fobes shot the wolf, but it escaped. Later, speaking of one of his companions in the same general area, Fobes commented as follows.)

. . . he saw an immense bear down five hundred feet in a valley, and, as he had the rifle with him, he concluded to give Bruin a shot. He started down, but after descending about half-way came to the conclusion that the bear ought not to be so rudely disturbed and struck out for camp.

(Later, near Carbon Glacier,)

. . . we surprised a large mountain goat feeding . . . considerably over three hundred pounds.

(They shot the goat. Fobes general comment on the game in the mountains was quoted in the discussion of elk sightings in the park, but is included again now.)

These mountain-tops are by no means an uninhabited desert. The hundreds of park-like valleys furnish pasturage for elk and deer, and the mountain-goat follows the melting snow to crop the freshest herbage.

1886, Brown

(Brown's account was referred to in the discussion of evidence for elk presence or absence on the east side of the park. He and his party of Yakima Indians approached the peak via Summer Land and Ingraham Glacier.)

Continuing on foot, we followed up the west slope of what is now known as Cathedral Rocks on the Ingraham Glacier, making use of the well-defined goat trails.

1886, Smith

(Smith was one of the three authors cited earlier as saying elk used the park; his visit was to the northern side of the mountain. This first reference is near Crater Lake.)

At 7-50 we pass a second smaller meadow. Altitude 4075 feet. At 7-55 a third smaller meadow, alt. 4125 feet. At 8-10 a fourth smaller meadow, containing about 2 acres, alt. 4425 ft. temp. 68 degrees. High above this are grassy knolls, fully 1500 feet above the meadow. There must be the home of the mountain sheep and goats. Between the third and fourth meadows are picturesque water falls, one a duplicate of a fall in Derby, Conn. called Indian Well. At 8-30 an altitude of 4800 feet is reached. At 8-50 we cross broken skid bridge, alt. 5000 ft. At this altitude is a clearing and we seen the first goat tracks, fresh in the earth.

(The second statement involves a camp made somewhere near Carbon Glacier; it concludes with the previously quoted material about elk.)

At 5 as most of us were awake but dozing, we hear a peculiar sound like the moan of a person in troubled sleep. It emanates from the direction of Sharpe who is sleeping by me. Some fellow is unkind enough to say that Sharpe is making too much noise in snoring, and bids me to poke him. I poke and he responds with forcible language about others minding their own business, but as that is a familiar repartee of Sharpe it has little effect as a squelcher. We are now all awake, but the sound is repeated. On closer notice we see on the bluff some hundreds of yards away the crouching form of a large animal. As we move about it is alarmed and runs away, joined by a companion. We had a good view of the animal and conclude that it was a cougar. Game is plenty on the mountain, although we have not seen many animals because of our numbers and noise. Tracks of goat, sheep, bear, deer, elk, badger and cougars are often seen fresh.

1887, Alston

(Archibald Alston spent six months in 1887 in a cabin near the west boundary of the park; the following passage is from a letter he wrote to Frank Brockman in 1957.)

In the early winter we saw lots of California lyons' tracks when we had a little snow . . .

1890, Tacoma Ledger

(In 1890 two parties reached the summit on consecutive days in the middle of August. This passage is from an article about the Knight-Hitchcock party that approached the mountain from Paradise Park and Gibraltar.)

. . . they . . . saw mountain goat at a distance.

1891, Rogers

(this party reached the peak on July 2; the following reference is from the time when they were at or near Longmire Springs.)

. . . far up on the bluffs we saw a band of wild goats away out of reach of the hardiest climber. On our trip each of the party is confident of killing at least a dozen of them.

(The last sentence was tongue in cheek.)

1891, Tacoma Ledger

(A party of eight, including three Longmires, reached the peak at the end of July.)

. . . the party saw a great many goats and as they brought several skins home it is safe to conclude that during their trip they somewhat lost sight of the state goat law.

(A report filed about this trip in the Seattle Post Intelligencer on August 4 attempted to be humorous about what was apparently a flagrant violation of game laws, as follows.)

Eleven pairs of mountain goat horns were secured. The goats were allowed to go, of course, after parting with their horns, as the game law had hardly expired.

1891, Olympia Tribune

(The Riley party reached the peak in early August, by way of Indian Henry's Hunting Ground and the Tahoma Glacier.)

Several herds of beautiful mountain goats were seen feeding at the 13,000 ft. level. What they were feeding upon at this altitude was peculiarly interesting. The only vegetation was an almost invisible green moss adhering closely to the rocks, and this the goats appeared to lick with a relish.

1891, Twitmeyer

(Twitmeyer was a visitor to the parks on the south side of the mountain in late July and early August.)

Our own Nimrods and those of a neighboring camp kept us supplied with an abundance of game. We feasted royally on mountain goat, dusky grouse, and gray ptarmigan. A word or two in regard to the denizens of the forest and lofty mountain regions of the Cascade range may not be without interest. The mountain goat, an admirable Alpine rover, still roams in comparative security, though during our brief stay of two week eleven of these brave, sturdy, shaggy cliff dwellers, to our personal knowledge, were killed, and rather wantonly too, for in most instances only their horns were taken. They feed in the rich mountain gardens and meadows, venturing sometimes well down to the openings near the timber line, but holding themselves ever alert, ready to flee to their highland castles at the faintest alarm.

The black bear, the black-tailed deer, and the puma confined themselves to the heavily timbered regions, where they are very abundant. The elk is no longer an inhabitant of the Cascades. He makes his home in the Olympics, and he is destined, sooner or later, with the American bison, to be numbered among the extinct larger, grander animals peculiar to our continent.

(The eleven goats that were killed were presumably those taken by the Longmire party, as listed above.)

1891, Van Trump

(Van Trump accompanied the Riley party, whose sightings were listed above. Van Trump added information about hunting and goat behavior when near humans.)

The two hunters, Dr. Riley and Mr. Drewry, killed four mountain goat... and Dr. Riley wounded a black bear, but not in a sufficient vital part to insure her capture.

Thirteen thousand feet is the highest limit to which the goat will climb when pursued. Parallel with our line of ascent, and nearly half a mile distant, a high precipitous ridge of rocks extends from the timberline nearly up to the north peak. When we began our ascent of the glacier in the morning, at a point on this ridge opposite us, was a flock of mountain goats. Thinking we were in pursuit of them they began to ascend the ridge toward the summit of the mountain. Hour after hour as we toiled slowly up the glacier we could see the goats climbing higher and higher, and could hear the faint bleating of the little kids in protest against their forced march. At last the goats reached an altitude of 13,000 feet and the extremity of their ridge. It is said that when the mountain goat has reached such a point as this, and there is no way of escape except by the way he climbed, the rams of the flock will make a decided stand, and attack an advancing foe, be it man or beast, and their peculiar, sharp pointed horns make a formidable weapon of defense. When we came up opposite to the goats they stood looking down at us as much as to say they had made their last retreat and were waiting our attack. As we passed by them and climbed higher and yet higher, they finally turned about and retraced their steps to their feeding grounds.

1891, Orting Oracle

(The Taggart-Lowe party made an ascent in late August. This is from the story of their ascent at a point above the terminus of Tahoma Glacier.)

We left camp next day and started up the mountain to an altitude of 12,000 feet, far above the clouds, which we could see floating majestically below us. After leaving our guns, of course we saw many goats. On the side of the mountain towards the north peak at about 4 o'clock we came upon a flock of goats, five in number. They allowed us to come very near them and I thought I would catch one of the little ones. I picked up a rock and threw it at one of the old ones. The old fellow got mad and commenced to pawing the ground and shaking his head, but finally turned and walked off. We threw more rocks at him; but he quickly turned the tables on us and we had to run for the big rocks where we were kept prisoners until they went down the hill. Again we started upward over the last hill between us and the north peak, only to encounter another flock of 32 goats. They did not run as we did not crowd them. We started back to camp at half-past five, after reaching the place where we left our guns, we had great difficulty in finding our way owing to the thick cloud which enveloped us.

1892, Tacoma Ledger

(The Dickson party reached the peak from Paradise up to Gibraltar in early August.)

Goats had been very plentiful in the foothills to the eastward of the mountain, but the party did not catch sight of any.

1892, Gordon

(Cora Gordon was a Tacoma tourist.)

We camp for the night on the banks of Goat Creek a beautiful little stream having its source in mountain of same name where goats abound.

1892, Oakland Enquirer

(Bayley's 1892 ascent, with Van Trump, took place in late August.)

It is a hunters paradise, for there, says Mr. Bayley, can be found in abundance such game as deer, bear and mountain sheep while grouse are to be found at every turn.

1894, Sarvant

(Sarvant was member of a party that reached the summit by the Gibraltar route in early August. They also traveled in the north part of the park.)

In the afternoon we broke camp, passed through Ipsut Pass, a mere cleft in the ridge with a well defined game trail leading through it, and followed a stream leading down into the Carbon Canyon.

1896, Russell

(Russell's account of the Glacier's from which these comments are taken, was published in 1897, but it is based on a visit to the mountain in 1896.)

The deer, the bear, the panther, are seldom met; they see and hear first and silently slip away, leaving only their tracks to prove their numbers.

(Near the "border of Winthrop Glacier" he made the following observation.)

Fresh trail of mountain goats and their but recently abandoned bed showed that this is a favorite resort for those hardy animals.

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Last Updated: Monday, 18-Oct-2004 20:10:54
Author: Natural & Cultural Resources Division

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