Categories: NewsWildlife

Grand Teton will try again to eliminate mountain goats

JACKSON, Wyo. — Grand Teton National Park will implement a temporary area closure for public and operational safety during nonnative mountain goat removal activities beginning tomorrow, Friday, February 21. The temporary closure may be in effect for up to one week.

The closure marks the second time park officials will attempt to eliminate mountain goats within its jurisdiction. A previous planned closure was scrubbed after weather grounded aerial support early in January.

The closure area is bounded on the south by South, Middle and Grand Tetons, Mount Owen and Teewinot Mountain peaks; bounded on the west by the park boundary; bounded on the east by the western shores of Jackson, Leigh, String and Jenny Lakes; and bounded on the north by Rolling Thunder Mountain and Eagle Rest Peaks.

Temporary closure area for mountain goat removal beginning Friday, February 21, 2020. Image: Courtesy GTNP

No public access will be allowed in the area during this time. Signs will be posted at main access locations.

In order to aid in the conservation of a native and vulnerable population of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the Teton Range, the National Park Service is implementing a recently finalized management plan to remove nonnative mountain goats from the park via lethal and nonlethal means.

Citing a responsibility to protect native species and reduce the potential for local extinction of a native species, the National Park Service says it intends to reduce the number of nonnative mountain goats in the park as quickly as possible.

“Mountain goats are not native to Grand Teton National Park,” park spokesperson Denise Germann says. “Mountain goats threaten the native Teton Range bighorn sheep herd through increased risk of pathogen transmission and the potential for competition. Aerially-based lethal activities are the most efficient and effective methods to remove nonnative mountain goats.”

Beginning Friday, February 21, helicopter-based lethal removal efforts will be initiated, as weather conditions and mountain goat distribution allow. Removal activities will be performed by a qualified contractor. Timing of the activities is planned when park visitation is low, and will be concentrated in the area between Cascade and Snowshoe Canyons where the majority of the mountain goats are located.

Germann added, “Without swift and active management, the mountain goat population is expected to continue to grow and expand its distribution within the park. The mountain goat population is currently at a size where complete removal is achievable in a short time, however, the growth rate of this population suggests that complete removal in the near future may become unattainable.”

The Teton Range is home to a small herd of native bighorn sheep currently estimated at approximately 100 animals. This herd is one of the smaller and most isolated in Wyoming, and has never been extirpated or augmented. The Teton Range herd of native bighorn sheep is of high conservation value to the park, adjacent land and wildlife managers, and visitors.

Currently the nonnative mountain goat population within the park is estimated at approximately 100 animals. Resident mountain goats within the park are likely descended from a population that was introduced outside the park.

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