JACKSON, Wyo. — Volunteer aerial hunters for Grand Teton National Park removed 36 mountain goats from the park February 21, park officials announced Tuesday.
The operation was meant to last more than a day, but opposition from state agencies, including Governor Mark Gordon, brought it to a halt for the second time.
GTNP says Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail met with Gordon yesterday to discuss efforts to protect the native Teton Range bighorn sheep herd from going extinct. It was a “productive meeting,” an email from the park said. Volunteer culling efforts will continue, but from the ground.
“The National Park Service is continuing to develop a skilled volunteer culling program that could be implemented as early as this fall,” the email said. “This culling program will utilize trained volunteers to remove non-native mountain goats via ground-based methods.”
Culling is distinct from traditional hunting, the park said, because its goal is conservation. GTNP has said all along that removing nonnative mountain goats is essential to saving the herd of native Teton bighorn sheep. The park hopes to eradicate 100 goats to save roughly 100 sheep, saying the goats compete with sheep for food and can spread diseases that can be fatal to sheep.
State objections were not necessarily about the goats’ well-being, but about the methods. Aerial hunting leaves meat to waste. The Game & Fish commission passed a resolution in January condemning the helicopter shooting plan.
No more aerial culling operations are planned and the closure of the central Teton Range is lifted, GTNP said.
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