Within each of our national parks, there is a delicate balance regarding the populations of different native and invasive species. If one species breeds too much and grows too rapidly, it can threaten the existence of prey animals or limit resources for competitors. In the case of Grand Teton National Park, this is exactly the problem rangers and environmentalists have to conquer. Invasive mountain goats are threatening the population of native bighorn sheep.
In order to counteract the growing mountain goat populations, Grand Teton National Park organized a second annual culling. This year, starting September 22, volunteers will hunt a total of 125 goats. This is precisely the same amount of native bighorn sheep that exist in the park. The season will continue until October 25, as long as the weather permits.
“Without immediate intervention, the mountain goat population is expected to grow and could contribute to the potential extirpation of the native bighorn sheep,” the National Park Service wrote in a recent release.
Originally from Idaho, mountain goats have encroached upon the sheep’s native territory in Grand Teton National Park. You might think that the two similar species would live together in harmony. However, the likeness of the two species is precisely the problem. Bighorn sheep and mountain goats inhabit the same environment and forage for some of the same foods.
The main difference is that mountain goats are more resilient animals. While the goats can get nourishment from just about any grassy greens, the sheep have to share their main supplement with another species. On top of this, mountain goats tend to carry bacterial diseases that can be deadly to bighorn sheep.
Grand Teton National Park to Cull Almost Triple the Number of Mountain Goats from 2020
“The National Park Service has a responsibility to protect native species and reduce the potential for local extinction of a native species within the park,” NPS wrote.
Last year, park officials enlisted the help of qualified individuals to cull 43 mountain goats from Grand Teton National Park. That left a total of roughly 50 goats remaining. Despite the effort, the population continued to explode. Now, this year volunteers will be removing almost triple the number of mountain goats culled in 2020.
Even though the number of mountain goats continues to grow, the qualifications for volunteers have remained the same. In fact, to ensure “safety and efficiency,” national park rangers are choosing this year’s teams from 2020’s list of qualified individuals. Most likely, this is to keep from having to repeat background checks, firearm proficiency tests and comprehensive training.
Also similar to last year, the volunteers will not be able to profit from or keep any of the meat or trophies from the mountain goats. Instead, the national park will donate the meat to Indian Tribes, food banks and other charitable organizations that address hunger.