Goat cull to close portions of Grand Teton National Park

MOOSE, Wyo. Over a year of planning and public commentary culminates this week with an announcement to reduce numbers of nonnative mountain goat within Grand Teton National Park.

The temporary closure takes effect January 5 and continues until January 12 when aerial hunting will occur across a compass-spanning region outlined north to south from Eagle Rest Peak to South Teton and east to west between Jackson Lake and Jedediah Smith Wilderness. No public access will be allowed in the area during this time. Signs will be posted at main access locations.

As lead causes for the denial of public access and subsequent hunt, park representatives cite public and operational safety as well as conservation efforts to protect the park’s nativeand vulnerably populatedRocky Mountain bighorn sheep. The National Park Service believes the reduction of the nonnative mountain goat population minimizes potential for extinction of the native bighorn sheep by decreasing the risk of pathogen transmission as well as potential for competition.

Experts estimate the Teton Range nurtures one of the smallest and most isolated herds of native bighorn sheep, a group that numbers only 100 animals yet retains a high conservation value to the park, adjacent land, wildlife managers, and visitors for its unique habitat and subsistence.

Meanwhile nonnative mountain goat is also estimated at approximately 100 animals and is a group thought to be descended from a population that was introduced outside Grand Teton National Park. The belief is that current mountain goat population is at a level where complete removal in a short time is possible. That said, the growth rate of this population suggests complete removal in the near future may become unattainable.

The initiative to lethally remove nonnative mountain goat is a decision that follows a December 2018 discussion weighing the merits of such a hunt. Those talks then gave rise to a plan which opened to public commentary during February of 2019. The resultant 2020 goat culling is to be dictated by weather conditions as well as mountain goat distribution. And animal removal will be executed by a qualified contractor.

The hunt will concentrate between Cascade and Snowshoe Canyons where the majority of the mountain goats are located. And timing of all activities has been planned for a period when park visitation is at a low.

For more information visit www.nps.gov

Closure area. Photo: NPS

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