Grand Teton seeks goat cull help after canceled air shoot
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Grand Teton National Park is seeking volunteers to shoot nonnative mountain goats this fall after calling off a helicopter goat shoot amid criticism from Wyoming’s governor last winter.
The new effort to eradicate the goats, deemed a threat to native bighorn sheep by biologists, has Gov. Mark Gordon’s support.
“I am delighted that Grand Teton National Park officials have chosen to take a different, more sensible approach to addressing this important wildlife management issue,” Gordon said in a statement after the park announced the new culling effort Thursday.
Gordon in February called the contracted helicopter shooting a “farce” in a letter to acting Grand Teton Superintendent Gopaul Noojidail. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt called off the shooting hours later, after 36 of the roughly 100 goats were killed.
State officials complained that the helicopter cull allowed goat meat to go to waste and happened over objections by a state commission.
The latest effort set for Sept. 14-Nov. 13 will involve shooters on the ground. It will still be a cull, not a hunt, and participants won’t allowed to keep goats for meat or as trophies. Instead, the meat may be donated to food banks, park officials said in a release.
Grand Teton, along with Yellowstone National Park just north, is among the busier U.S. national parks but the Teton Range inhabited by the goats and sheep has few roads and is mostly accessible only by hiking and climbing.
The goats need killing soon, park officials said, before they are too numerous to eradicate. Threats to the Tetons’ 100 or so bighorn sheep include potentially catching pneumonia from the goats.
While the latest plan makes no mention of shooting goats by helicopter, Grand Teton spokeswoman Denise Germann didn’t rule it out in the future.
“We are focused on the qualified volunteer program,” Germann said by email.
Those interested in shooting goats must apply as teams of two to six people. Grand Teton will stop taking applications after getting 240 and will choose participants randomly.
The Tetons are grizzly bear country and the shooters will be trained to use bear spray. They must pass a firearm proficiency test and should be able to hike up to 20 miles (32 kilometers) of mountainous terrain a day, park officials said.
Most national parks don’t allow hunting but the 1950 law establishing Grand Teton provides for hunters to take part in an “elk reduction program” each fall.