SAN FRANCISCO - A HIKER has died after reportedly being fatally attacked by a mountain goat while at a national park in the western US state of Washington, US park officials said on Sunday.

Barb Maynes, spokesman for Olympic National Park, told AFP that the victim Robert Boardman, 63, was hiking on Saturday with his wife and a friend when he 'apparently sustained fatal injuries after the encounter' with the ram. She said details remain sketchy and an investigation is underway.

'We're not sure at this point what happened,' she said. 'We are aware that the hiking group did have some kind of an encounter with the mountain goat.' The spokesman said the goat was fatally shot by park rangers when they 'observed blood on its horns' after the incident.

'We are waiting for a report from the coroner' Ms Maynes added, as well as the results of a separate examination from a veterinary pathologist to determine if the animal was sick or injured, she said.

Ms Maynes added that an attack by a mountain goat, if confirmed, is extremely rare. 'This is highly, highly unusual,' she said. 'We are not aware of anything like this ever happening' at the park before. The local Peninsula Daily newspaper said Boardman was hiking with his wife and a friend when he was attacked by the male goat, which witnesses said had been behaving aggressively.

An experienced hiker, Boardman was gored in the thigh while trying to shoo the ram away, according to the news report. The newspaper said a park ranger who was not on duty but happened to be nearby shook a 'safety blanket' at the goat, and pelted the animal with rocks to keep it at bay until help could arrive. A coast guard helicopter airlifted the injured man, who was unresponsive, shortly afterwards but he was was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

US hiker killed by goat