Grand Teton mountain goat cull over for now
There are 43 fewer mountain goats in Grand Teton National Park following the controversial cull. The effort came to an end early due to poor weather conditions that park officials feared could jeopardize the safety of the volunteer hunters, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports.
“With the snow volume, I made the recommendation to … not continue,” said Grand Teton National Park Chief Ranger Michael Nash. “The snow’s not going to go away, at this point.”
As goHUNT previously reported, park officials decided to terminate nonnative mountain goats in the park to help native bighorn sheep already struggling to survive. There are currently about 100 mountain goats living in Grand Teton, most likely descended from a herd outside of the park. Because of the current number of animals, park officials believe that they can remove the nonnative herd completely. If they don’t, they say that the population could continue to grow and make complete removal unattainable, resulting in too many nonnative animals on critical bighorn sheep habitat.
Prior efforts to remove the non-native goats included a helicopter gunner, resulting in the lethal removal of 36 goats in a single day. However, that action was met with opposition, which, ultimately, forced park officials to temporarily pause the cull, according to the Jackson Hole News & Guide. Lengthy debates followed over the legal justification over killing the mountain goats in this way, pegging hunters and animal activists against park officials.
Eventually, the park opted to move forward with the cull, but decided to use volunteer hunters on the ground. Teams ranging from two to six individuals were selected via a random draw. Each team only needed one shooter and all shooters were required to have a valid hunter safety card. Background checks on other team members were also required before the team was allowed to shoot mountain goats. While not every team was successful during the effort, according to Nash, “90 hunters put in a combined 4,523 hours in pursuit of the Tetons’ mountain goats.”
And even though the on-the-ground-cull was successful, that doesn’t mean a future helicopter one is off the table.
“We were all very surprised at how well the Park Service laid it out,” said Game and Fish Commissioner Mike Schmid, a vocal opponent to the use of hired helicopter gunners to kill the mountain goats. “They’ve done what the public asked, and they gave us the opportunity. If eradication as quick as possible is the endgame — which I believe it is — I fully expect them to go back in and clean the rest of them up with aerial gunners,” he said. “If that’s the choice, I would support that.”