Grand Teton National Park is asking for hunters’ help in preserving its dwindling bighorn sheep population by killing “as many goats as possible.” The Daily Beast is reporting the national park service wants people to take part in a cull of the invasive mountain goat species.
The park’s rapidly expanding mountain goat population has been a problem for a while. Moreover, the goats are taking over the natural habitats of the bighorn sheep and pose a serious health risk to them. As a result, only about 100 bighorn sheep are left in the Grand Teton National Park. That’s about the same size as the mountain goat population there, a press release about the cull says.
The few bighorn sheep left in the park is the smallest and most isolated herd in Wyoming, park officials said. It’s of high conservation value as they have existed there for thousands of years, officials told National Geographic.
“The Teton herd that remained after the majority of bighorn sheep herds were wiped out are really valuable for the species in general,” says Alyson Courtemanch, a wildlife biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, told the magazine. “They are a reservoir of genes that were never lost.”
Park rangers selected the first 70 teams of volunteers to take park in the cull earlier this month, WyoFile.com said. They went through orientation and a required marksmanship test. Hunters had to be able to place three or five bullets in an 8-inch group from 200 yards to pass. They must also be able to hike several miles a day.
The approved teams of two to six people will be able to shoot goats in 10 areas through Nov. 13.
Grand Teton mountain goats are an ongoing problem
Park rangers had considered culling the population of mountain goats earlier this year using snipers from helicopters. Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and the Wyoming Fish and Game condemned the idea in January, Wyoming Public Radio reported.
“The use of aerial gunning by (Grand Teton National Park) personnel to remove these goats is inconsistent with all notions of game management, fair chase, and totally inconsistent with years of GTNP management of big game animals in the GTNP,” the commission said in a press release.
Park officials called off the aerial hunt and decided to go with the current plan using hunters.
[H/T Daily Beast]