By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Gov. Mark Gordon expressed his support Thursday for Grand Teton National Park’s plan to manage mountain goats within park boundaries using volunteers to kill a limited number of the animals.
The updated plan came after the governor called for a halt to the aerial gunning of non-native mountain goats to reduce their numbers. The new plan will allow qualified volunteers to harvest the animals, according to a news release from Gordon’s office.
“I am delighted that Grand Teton National Park officials have chosen to take a different, more sensible approach to addressing this important wildlife management issue,” Gordon said in the news release. “From the very beginning we have expressed our desire to partner with the Park to find a solution that achieves management objectives for this population and respects Wyoming values.”
Mountain goats in the park compete with bighorn sheep for limited, high-elevation habitat and may spread disease to the native sheep herd.
In February, Gordon was vocal in his opposition to a plan that relied on shooting the mountain goats from helicopters as a way to control the population.
In communications to both acting Grand Teton Park Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, Gordon criticized the National Park Service’s choice to “act unilaterally aerially executing mountain goats over Wyoming’s objections.”
Gordon’s position was supported by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, which adamantly recommended volunteers play a role in the operation.
The commission passed a resolution in January that condemned the use of aerial gunning to manage goats and urged the park to use skilled volunteers as the removal method. In a letter that same month, Brian Nesvik,Wyoming Game and Fish Department director, made the same recommendation.
“The use of qualified volunteers underscores how public participation is a key tenant of how wildlife is managed in Wyoming. The opportunity for the public to aid in the reduction of mountain goats — a wildlife management action — is essential to our state and reflective of the high-value we place on the wildlife resource,” Nesvik said in the release.
Grand Teton will manage the qualified volunteer program, and the methods and approach were developed in collaboration with Game and Fish.
Mountain goat meat harvested by qualified volunteers will be used to the greatest extent possible by the qualified volunteers who take the mountain goats or by donating the meat to organizations that work to address hunger.