Grand Teton to allow volunteer hunters to help eliminate goats
Details are still fuzzy, but Grand Teton National Park will allow “qualified volunteers” to assist with the effort to eradicate 100 or so invasive mountain goats in the Teton Range.
October 25, 2019
JACKSON — Details are still fuzzy, but Grand Teton National Park will allow “qualified volunteers” to assist with the effort to eradicate 100 or so invasive mountain goats in the Teton Range.
Mountain goat hunting, in other words, is in store for the national park’s high peaks, though that’s not a term that the National Park Service is using. There’s still a lot to sort out, park Chief of Science and Resources Sue Consolo-Murphy said, such as whether training and certifications will be necessary, what would become of the goat meat and whether park officials will accompany the “volunteers.”
“We really haven’t developed this yet,” Consolo-Murphy said. “We want to spend some time developing what this would look like and figure out how to roll it out and let people know there will be an opportunity to help. I think it probably won’t be unlimited, and we just need to figure this all out.”
In instances where Grand Teton authorizes hunting, park officials refrain from using that term to describe what’s going on. The annual elk hunt, included in the park’s enabling legislation, is referred to as a “reduction program,” for example. This year the season begins on Nov. 2. Rules are more restrictive than other nearby elk hunts on private or Bridger-Teton National Forest land — bear spray and non-lead bullets, for example, are required — but the program still functions like a hunt and is carried out by unchaperoned hunters licensed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The objective of eliminating wild goats from the Tetons has been broadly supported, largely because the nonnative critters are potentially perilous for a resident bighorn sheep herd. The isolated sheep herd has never been exposed to a number of deadly pathogens that the goats, migrants from the Snake River Range, are known to harbor. The goat population has been climbing while sheep numbers have sagged, and biologists monitoring the precarious sheep herd have grown increasingly worried about the possibility of extirpation.
Using “skilled volunteers,” or hunters, is new to the plan for removing exotic goats since the national park issued an environmental assessment outlining their approach last December. Initially the park sought to use Park Service staff or contractors to kill goats from the ground with rifles and from helicopters with shotguns. The earlier plans called for leaving the carcasses on the mountainsides.