JACKSON (WNE) — Unchaperoned groups of volunteers armed with rifles will be combing the rugged Tetons looking to eradicate the range’s remaining nonnative mountain goats starting in …
JACKSON (WNE) — Unchaperoned groups of volunteers armed with rifles will be combing the rugged Tetons looking to eradicate the range’s remaining nonnative mountain goats starting in September.
The tightly regulated, ground-based lethal operation takes the place of a more efficient helicopter gunning effort that was underway last winter before U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt stepped in and halted an aerial cull at the urging of Gov. Mark Gordon.
Park officials unveiled Plan B in August: a “qualified volunteer” program open to most Americans that will turn loose teams of two to six people who have passed marksmanship tests and met other standards.
When they encounter the sure-footed, white-coated goats within the designated zones they’re assigned to, volunteers will be encouraged to shoot and kill as many as possible, as long as the meat is recoverable.
“We want to put these volunteers in areas where they’re going to be successful,” Grand Teton National Park Chief Ranger Michael Nash said, “because that’s the goal of the program.”
The purpose of the cull is to protect an isolated native bighorn sheep herd, which shares habitat with the nonnative goats. Wildlife managers worry that the exotic goats could spread fatal diseases to the sheep, a population occupying the Tetons since the last Ice Age.
The park wants to eliminate the approximately 100 billies, nannies and kids that dwell there. The goat herd has thrived since arriving in the early 2000s, while the sheep population has withered.
Applications for the non-native mountain goat qualified volunteer program are no longer being taken, as the target of 240 applicants has been met.