WELLSVILLE - A rare case of goat fever has infected many residents of Wellsville recently. Symptoms include concern, speculation, debate, reminiscing, and the posting of photos and video on social media. The condition appears to be mildly contagious. It isn't fatal, although hiking up to where the goat makes its home could be hazardous to one's health.
Goat sightings in the steep hills and cliffs overlooking Wellsville date back several years, with estimates ranging up top 13 years, according to eyewitness accounts. The animals usually remain in that territory, but since the beginning of March, a goat has been seen roaming into the village itself.
A pair of posts on a Wellsville-dedicated Facebook page earlier this month generated a combined 70 comments that included appeal for the animal's welfare, guesses about how long it's been living there and whether it's a nanny or a billy, and other goat-related chatter. The overwhelming sense was one of concern for a old friend who hasn't been seen in many years.
Wellsville Police Officer Steve Rogers says the goat is in the habit of coming out of the brush at the end of winter to lick the remaining salt off the roads. "That's what I've seen him do this time of year, every year," he said. True to form, the goat has been spotted in the area of state Route 7. "He was between the on-ramp and the actual highway, in that [grassy] strip, so we had to shoo him back up onto the hill," Rogers said.
Police have been receiving periodic calls from residents at the north end of town when the goat starts wandering close to or into the village. Lately, it's been seen as far down as the McDonald's parking lot on Lisbon Street, indicating to many that it was famished following a long and harsh winter. "I felt bad for it, because I knew it was hungry," Rogers said.
On Facebook, a debate ensued about feeding the goat, building it a shelter or even relocating it to a less hazardous area away from the freeway. A consensus was reached that the goat needed food, and volunteers swept into action.
Wellsville Feed & Supply donated a bag of hay the first week of the month, which was placed atop the hill on Wells Avenue across from the BP station where the goat had been spotted foraging. Most agreed that the small bundle would only last it a day or two, however.
A member of the Wellsville Animal Advocacy Group (W.A.A.G.) that preferred not to be identified said she had delivered oats, lettuce, apples and bread to the same spot and came face-to-face with the animal. "The goat was big, brown and white," she said. "It ran about 50 yards or so away and watched me. It was still watching me when I left, probably waiting for me to leave, so I did."
While rumors have persisted that the goat originally belonged to someone and ran away, resident Penny Rodgers is convinced by its behavior that isn't the case. "She is definitely wild," she said, telling a similar story of its skittishness around people.
Rodgers was one of many worried that the goat would be hit by a car or suffer a similarly violent fate. Her concern is not without reason. According to Rodgers, the goat - a female, it turns out - lived alongside a billy goat up on the hill, and the pair had two kid goats. The family unit was not to last, however. The male was captured and taken to a nearby farm, where he died of unspecified causes.
The young goats met equally sad ends. "The one baby fell off the hillside and died, and somebody shot the other one," Rodgers said. She worries that someone may try to shoot the nanny goat if they know she's still up there. "You know how people are," she added sadly.
For now, the village goat appears to be in good health. A 50-pound bag of goat feed was purchased and hiked up the steep, treacherous terrain by resident Lonnie Hentzell over the weekend.