The non-native mountain goat cull will begin tomorrow Sept. 22 in GTNP. Photo: B. Day // NPS

MOOSE, Wyo. — The culling of non-native mountain goats from Grand Teton National Park will begin Sept. 22 as part of a multi-year management plan to conserve a native and vulnerable population of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the Teton Range, announced Grand Teton National Park, today, Sept. 21.

A park culling program took place in the fall of 2020 with 108 qualified volunteers successfully and safely removing 43 non-native mountain goats. It is estimated that approximately 50 goats remain in the park.

Over 20 volunteer teams, consisting of a minimum of two individuals and a maximum of six individuals per team, will participate this year. In the interest of safety and efficiency, the park is only drawing on qualified volunteers who were trained and participated in the program last year. There are significantly fewer mountain goats in the park and removal will be significantly more difficult. The operational season will continue until Oct. 25, weather permitting.

Mountain goats are not native to the Teton range and can carry bacterial diseases that are lethal to bighorn sheep. The Teton Range bighorn sheep population, estimated at about 125 animals, has been relatively isolated and is therefore likely ‘naïve’ to these diseases. Without immediate intervention, the mountain goat population is expected to grow and could contribute to the potential extirpation of the native bighorn sheep.

Last year’s participants will once again undergo a background check, and may not have active warrants, or past major wildlife violations. Volunteers identified as shooters must successfully pass a mandatory firearm proficiency evaluation. All volunteers are United States citizens and at least 18 years of age.

Additional required testing and comprehensive training to safely and successfully participate in this program includes bear spray deployment, backcountry tracking, radio protocols, ecology, and genetic sample collection. Each volunteer will receive this testing and training on the first day of each operational period.

The volunteer teams will each be assigned one of five geographic zones throughout the Teton Range within the park. The non-native mountain goats are generally found at high elevations. Qualified volunteers may access these zones from a variety of trailheads, as well as national forest lands to the west of the park.

All volunteers for the culling program will be clearly identified as a “National Park Service Qualified Volunteer” with an orange bib on their back or pack as well as an orange or pink hat or other exterior garment. Visitors can expect to see volunteers in camouflage clothing carrying rifles, may hear gun shots, or see volunteers packing out portions of culled mountain goats.

No park trails or areas are anticipated to be closed during the culling program. Signs will be posted at trailheads that access the areas the volunteers will be working to create awareness for any backcountry hikers or climbers.

Volunteers may not keep a trophy when participating in a culling program in a national park. The meat may be donated or distributed to Indian Tribes, qualified volunteers, food banks, and other organizations that work to address hunger, in accordance with applicable health guidelines.

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Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.