HELICOPTER GUNNERS TO ELIMINATE GOATS IN THE GRAND TETONS- EHUNTR reported on the project to eliminate goats in 2018. The plans have been well-known and well-communicated by both Wyoming Game and Fish and the National Park Service. However, this particular method, contracted helicopter gunners, seems to be a surprise to most. Beginning Sunday, January 5, 2020, part of Grand Teton National Park will be closed for aerial shotgun operations. The goal is to eliminate around 100 goats in the Grand Tetons. The last day of the closure is Sunday, January 12.
“Flights to locate the goats were supposed to begin Sunday and the shooting, contracted to Oregon-based Baker Aircraft, is set to begin Monday, depending on the weather. Shooters aboard helicopters will use non-lead rounds from a shotgun or rifle, with the weapon type depending on the conditions.” –CBS4 Denver
Is removing the goats a good thing?
Conservation groups, hunting groups and local populous agree that removing goats from the range is biologically good and appropriate. The goats are not native to the Grand Teton range. Their presence is threatening the well-being of the already struggling herds of native bighorn sheep.
What about hunting the goats?
Wyoming Game and Fish made good on their plan to include hunting as part of the removal process. Wyoming issued 48 licenses in Hunt Area 4, good from August 1, 2019 to November 15, 2019. By August 26, hunters had already taken 15 goats. The total expected harvest was only 10-15. It does not appear as though WG&F has released the final results of the hunt, yet. However, some believe WG&F should have awarded more licenses and given hunters more time to harvest.
Is eradicating the goats from this area actually urgent?
National Park Service biologists determined winter forage available in high elevation terrain will not support both goats and sheep. In 2014, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation called out mountain goats as “perhaps the biggest ecological threat to the area in modern history.” By 2015, the park service referred to the status of bighorn sheep populations as “tenuous.” Park officials first proposed eradicating the Tetons’ goats in 2013, and plans were finalized late 2019, commented:
“The mountain goat population is currently at a size where complete removal is achievable in a short time. However, the growth rate of this population suggest that complete removal in the near future may become unattainable after a period of about three years.”
What do you think? Should hunting have been a higher priority?