Imagine yourself on a leisurely nature hike in the remote mountains of Utah. Maybe you want to take some pictures of Utah wildlife and so you have brought your favorite camera and equipment along with you.

Midway through the hike, as you are enjoying the solitude and quiet of being so far away from the commotion of civilization, you notice a small group of mountain goats traversing up the side of an adjacent mountain. As you watch them you notice that one of the goats looks a bit strange and is not moving quite like the rest of them; it is slower and clumsier. Quickly you deploy your binoculars to get a better look.

Much to your surprise the slow goat turns out to be something other than a goat. It appears to be a goat-man creature or a person in a goat suit of some sort. The goatman is crawling on his hands and knees trailing the herd. He looks back toward you and spots you looking back at him. Suddenly the goatman freezes, staring back at you. Your spine tingles as the goat-like creature continues to gaze back at you.

That is a synopsis of the story of the discovery of the Utah goatman, which turned out to be nothing more (or less) than a man who dressed up as a goat and ran around with a herd of goats to prepare for a future goat hunting trip. While the Utah goatman mystery has been solved there remains another similar mystery: the goatman of Maryland.

In 1957, in Prince George's County, Md., an eyewitness reported seeing a hairy, horned monster that resembled a half-man, half-animal creature and the legend of the Maryland Goatman was born.

Since that time numerous sightings have been reported from all across the globe. People in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, Washington as well as Canada and other countries have reported seeing the Goatman, or a goatman.

Despite the many places where sightings have been reported, the creature is said to live in a cave by an old bridge near the town of Bowie, Md.

In 1962 the Goatman brute was accused of killing 12 children and two adults. According to the folklore, the group of children and adults were hiking a bit too close to the Goatman's cave and they paid the price with their lives. There were some survivors of the fiendish attack and, although they remain unidentified, they claim that the Goatman hacked his victims to bits with an axe. The story continues that when the police arrived all that was left of the 12 victims were partially eaten limbs and a bloody trail that led to the cave.

Other claims have the Goatman throwing dogs off overpasses along secluded stretches of Interstate 495 while wailing a demonic howl. These claims seem to be the most persistent of incidents blamed on the Goatman.

Mutilated and decapitated animal corpses have been discovered and their gruesome demise has been said to be the butchery work of the Goatman. Dogs have been vanishing from the area for many years and the Goatman continues to be the prime suspect.

I don't think I believe in the Goatman of Maryland. Maybe there is something strange going on in that area of Maryland and maybe not. I know that I certainly do not lose any sleep worrying about the Goatman.

I do have an occasional nightmare regarding a certain Rocky Mountain goat I encountered on a trail in Glacier National Park, Mont. He didn't have an axe and he wasn't part human or troll; that goat was all goat -- 300 pounds of muscle, attitude and horns! He was not keen on sharing the trail with me and so, like the dogs of Prince George's County, Md., I disappeared.

Tug Gettling is the director of North Utah Valley Animal Services.

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