Grand Teton launches new plan for mountain goat removal

By Laura Bies

Grant Teton National Park has announced a new plan to cull mountain goats, a nonnative species in the park. Credit: USFWS

Grand Teton National Park is accepting applications for volunteers to participate in a cull of nonnative mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) within the park this fall. Chosen volunteers will conduct several shooting operations between mid-Sept. and mid-Nov.

The park first developed a plan to remove mountains late last year. That plan involved using both lethal and nonlethal means to remove the goats that pose a threat to the park’s native population of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis). The isolated population of bighorn sheep, which numbers about 100, are at risk of contracting potentially fatal bacterial diseases from the mountain goats. The goats were originally introduced into the nearby Snake River Range and have since migrated to the Teton Range.

Park managers successfully removed 36 goats earlier this year by aerial shooting from a helicopter. That effort was quickly halted, though, due to concern from Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon who complained that the meat would be wasted and that the state wildlife commission objected to the operation.

The new plan, aimed at removing the remaining approximately 100 goats from the park, is a cooperative effort between the National Park Service and state partners including the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. It will no longer involve aerial shooting, but instead, volunteer shooters will pursue goats from the ground so carcasses can be retrieved. The goat’s meat and parts will not be kept by volunteers but rather may be donated or distributed to Native American tribes, food banks or other organizations working to address hunger.

Prospective volunteers must apply as teams of two to six people. Once the park receives 240 applications, it will stop accepting them. Participants for each operation will be chosen randomly from the applications submitted.

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Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

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