Lost goat captured in Hampton, brought back home after 10 months in the wild
After nearly 10 months of living alone in the woods, Carlene finally is home.
While walking along the railroad tracks in the woods between Sample Road and Wildwood Highlands in late January, Jeff Gerson of Hampton spotted something that just didn't seem to belong. It was an animal he couldn't quite identify.
“It took a few minutes for me to figure out what it was,” he said. “I walked closer and even took a few photos with my phone. Finally, when it turned sideways I saw that it had a goatee. It turned out to be a goat.”
Before he could get too close, the goat decided to go down a treacherous, steep cliff, leaving Gerson scratching his head. Some people would have chalked it up to a random event and moved on. But not Gerson.
He sent emails to the Hampton police, the McCandless police and the Game Commission. He got a reply from McCandless police telling him they indeed had a report of a missing goat but it was from May of 2016.
Gerson decided to follow up with Goat Rodeo Farm and Dairy in Allison Park, who reported the missing animal. They have more than 100 goats that are milked to make several varieties of fresh and aged cheeses.
It was there he connected with Colleen Frederking, who works part-time at the dairy, has been employed there for six years and actually named the missing goat — Carlene.
“When Jeff called, I couldn't believe it,” said Frederking, who has spent countless hours passing out fliers and contacting area businesses to see if anybody had seen the goat.
Once a location of Carlene had been discovered, the task to actually coax the lost goat, who is now 5, to come home became the issue. Since the goat had spent nearly a year in the wild she was understandably skittish.
India Lovener, owner of Goat Rodeo Farm and Dairy agreed to have an acquaintance of Gerson's — Tim Giger — get involved. Giger, of Middlesex Township, Butler County, is a state licensed wildlife trapper who is experienced in such matters and set up a safe trap near the site Carlene was first spotted.
“I've trapped a lot of animals, but that was my first goat,” said Giger who set up a safe device that wouldn't injure Carlene. “I used a Clover Trap which is basically a big, box trap.”
On the morning of March 11, around 9:30 a.m., Gerson decided to check out the non-lethal trap and was pleased to see Carlene safely in the pen that had been baited with grain and straw. He immediately made calls to his fellow “goat searchers” and within the hour, Frederking, her husband, Bob, as well as Giger and Lovener were all on the scene for the rescue.
“Catching her was the easy part,” Giger said “I was more concerned with getting her to walk the 600 yards to the truck without trying to run away or pull us over the cliff. But she was perfect. She walked along with India and I and didn't even pull us at all.”
According to the game commission, there are coyotes in this region and Carlene was certainly in some degree of danger, but goats are famous for their sure footing and ability to traverse rock faces that are nearly vertical.
“She found a great, safe location on a hill where she could see anything coming,” Frederking said. “With the cliff right there, she could climb down for safety. That likely explains how she survived.”
Giger agreed that Carlene's unlikely survival had two vital components.
“She picked a great location because nothing could follow her down that cliff. I also give the hunters in the area a lot of credit. She looks a lot like a deer and the hunters could have easily shot her. I spoke to several hunters who saw her in the woods and if they hadn't been good, safe hunters, she could have easily been shot.”
While Frederking and Lovener said Carlene lost some weight, she was by no means emaciated and is in good health as she found food sources to sustain her in the woods — likely acorns, leaves and a variety of vegetation.
At the moment, Carlene is slowly being reintroduced to the other goats but seems to be adjusting well to being back home.
“She seems very happy and content to be home,” said Frederking who said she receives constant nuzzling from Carlene. “She had quite an adventure.”
Dave McElhinny is the North Bureau Chief for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at email@example.com.