In an effort to rid Grand Teton National Park of non-native mountain goats, the National Park Service (NPS) started culling mountain goats last Wednesday, using trained volunteer teams who participated in the program last year. Because invasive mountain goats encroach on bighorn sheep and bring potential disease, NPS has deemed the program necessary to help keep bighorn sheep herds healthy in their native habitat, the Billings Gazette reports.
As goHUNT previously reported, park officials hope to remove the roughly 50 remaining mountain goats within the park. In 2020, 108 qualified volunteers were able to cull 43 mountain goats. This year, park officials say the removal will be more difficult because so few non-native goats remain.
“The goal is to eradicate nonnative mountain goats within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park as quickly as possible,” park officials said in a question-and-answer forum about the program. “Without intervention, nonnative mountain goats could transmit pathogens to or displace native Teton bighorn sheep on very limited winter range and optimal summer habitat.”
Over 20 volunteer teams comprised of at least two individuals and up to a maximum of six are participating in the cull, which runs through Oct. 25 and follows the National Park Service’s 2019 Mountain Goat Management Plan. The 2019 John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Managements, and Recreation Act permits for “qualified volunteer hunters” to be “considered National Park Service employees throughout the duration of a specific hunt,” according to KSL News.
Volunteer hunters will clearly be marked as “National Park Service Qualified Volunteers” with an orange bib. No park trails or areas will be closed during the culling program; however, NPS will post signs at trailheads to alert backcountry visitors.