News

Goat got clicks

National and international news stories falsely claiming photographers drove an Alaska mountain goat to its death in the ocean off Seward have given the owner of the Seward City News.com a big lesson on the global reach of the internet.

Steve Fink, who works as charter boat skipper in the summer, shot a short video of the goat in the Seward Boat Harbor as he was pulling in from a fishing trip on Saturday. Now he’s a wanted man.

On Saturday evening, Fink put his video up on the SCN website beneath a headline that said simply “Wild Mountain Goat Visits Seward Harbor.”

He didn’t know then that the goat had wandered south to the Alaska Sealife Center on the edge of Resurrection Bay,  jumped off a seawall and died. Alaska State Troopers reported the death Sunday in their daily, online dispatches of crime and strange events around the 49th state.

By Monday, Fink’s world was exploding.

“My short 22 second clip on youtube is all over the country and as far as London at major news agencies. I have been fielding media requests for the last 48 hours,” he emailed after he returned from a fishing trip Tuesday night.

As of Wednesday morning, more than 125,000 people had viewed his youtube video, which shows nothing more than a goat strolling across large boulders on a beach.

“It seems mine is the only one (video) around, and it wasn’t even near the time of death….and there is not much to see there either,” Fink said. “The obsession is incredible. SCN has even been somewhat blamed for the incident by a few people. Wow.”

The blame has come from people reading stories such as that posted by CNN claiming “Goat Chased to its death by picture takers in Alaska.” No evidence has emerged to support that sort of claim, although the goat’s unfortunate encounter with civilization certainly played a role in its death.

Kerri O’Neill, who tried to save the animal, said it went from the parking lot of a busy seaside restaurant to the boat harbor to the edge of an RV park, moving it ever closer to more people and the SeaLife Center. At one point, there were so many people blocking the goats path south that it took to the waters of the bay to avoid the congestion.

(O’Neill’s full account can be read in the comments at the end of this story: https://craigmedred.news/2016/07/19/the-medias-goat/ )

“I saw the mountain goat (swimming) at least 100 yards into the bay and another 100 yards away was a sea otter. It was surreal,” O’Neill reported.

“On the small bluff of the RV park, there were at least 40 more (people) taking photos and watching in disbelief, many yelling for their neighbors to look at the goat. It was a scene. Frankly, I can’t quite blame them. A goat swimming alongside a sea otter? I mean… ‘Honey, we can go home now, I got the shot.’

“From that vantage point, there were wall-to-wall motor homes as far as the eye could see from right to left, along with their tenants. And bless them. They were minding their own business, enjoying a picture perfect Alaska day. The goat was technically the uninvited guest. How did it come into Seward and why?”

That is a question no one can answer. Animals do strange things. A moose in Anchorage with a newborn calf caused quite a stir when she decided to camp out in a busy parking lot in front of a Lowes home improvement story. A surrounding throng of people didn’t seem to bother her at all.

With the goat, it was different, and some have raised the question of whether more could have been done to help the misguided animal pick its way through the usually quiet community of 2,700 about 128 miles south of Anchorage.

“It was reported that Troopers were in ‘hot pursuit.’ I will tell you that I did not see one single Trooper at any point during any of this,” O’Neill wrote. Troopers apparently did not arrive on the scene until after the goat was dead, and then played some role in starting the hysteria that followed by noting in their dispatch that people should give wildlife room to escape.

Somehow that was translated into a throng of people chasing after the goat and harassing it to death.

“I did not see a throng of rabid photographers running this mountain goat through town,” O’Neill wrote. “But, let me put it this way. A mile long wall of people, cars, dogs, motorhomes, kids, kites, bikes, buildings, parking lots and skateboards makes a compelling case for a swim – at least in the eyes of a panicked wild animal….

“This was a tricky and heartbreaking situation and I’m not sure anything realistically could have changed the outcome – and believe me I have endlessly tossed around scenarios. Save Troopers rolling through town on loud speakers asking everyone to move themselves and their kids and vehicles and dogs away from the goat, it was just plain impossible to give him the space he needed to calm down and get to higher ground.”

Fink said he never imagined the goat’s eventual and tragic demise would become international news or the impact his video might bring.

“I am just the owner of SCN, not a writer, ” said. “… I was just capturing an interesting picture for our website on a Saturday afternoon. There was no intention of this as a story….”

But a story it became, and everywhere the story was much the same:

“Mountain Goat Drowns While Trying to Escape Photo-Crazy Crowd in Alaska,” Travel & Leisure headlined Tuesday above a photo of a pair of Alaska Dall sheep, an entirely different species of wildlife.

 

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