WYOMING Grand Teton National Park Is Gunning Down Mountain Goats To Save Bighorn Sheep
Jan 7, 2020
Grand Teton National Park’s mountain goat cull is underway despite opposition from the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. Last week, the commission officially spoke out against the lethal removal of mountain goats from the park using aerial gunners, saying that decision “flies in the face of all Wyoming values”.
Herds of mountain goats occupy mountain ranges all around the Mountain West. Not all are native, though, and some of those transplants are causing problems. That’s the case in Wyoming’s Teton Range.
This week, Grand Teton National Park is closing part of the park while aerial gunners take out non-native goats.
“The mountain goats are threatening the existence of the native population of bighorn sheep,” said park spokeswoman Denise Germann.
The Teton Range’s bighorn sheep herd is small, isolated and in decline. “Prompt action is needed to remove or significantly reduce the non-native goats from the park to prevent the rapidly growing and expanding mountain goat population from displacing the small and declining population of native bighorn sheep,” the park wrote in its environmental assessment of the eradication effort.
“The primary concern,” Germann said, “is that the non-native mountain goats can transmit diseases or pathogens to the native bighorn sheep.”
Germann says the goats can also displace the sheep on the already limited winter range. Right now, the park estimates there are about 100 goats in the area.
“The National Park Service has a responsibility to manage native populations, and as hard as it may be, our responsibility is to manage the bighorn sheep over the non-native mountain goats,” Germann said. So, contracted aerial gunners began a week-long effort in Wyoming to locate and shoot non-native mountain goats to help the Targhee bighorn sheep herd struggling to survive in their native range. While the original proposal called for the salvage and donation of mountain goat meat to those in need, that has since changed and carcasses will only be retrieved if it can be safely done.