The Dilemma In GTNP
Last October, Grant Teton National Park (GTNP) released its plan to move forward with the removal of the park’s roughly 100 resident mountain goats in an effort to protect their bighorn sheep. The plan approved the use of both lethal and non-lethal removal of the animals. The plan also outlined and authorized the use of qualified volunteers to assist in the ground-based removal, much like what is unfolding this coming summer in Olympic National Park. The park’s final solution was the authorized use of federal helicopter gunning of the mountain goats and to leave them to waste on the landscape.
To RMGA’s disappointment, all approved removal options were bypassed, and the park announced the first week of January they would immediately be utilizing helicopter gunners to kill their goats and to leave them lay on the landscape. The announcement had national backlash and triggered the January 15th letter of opposition of the aerial gunning from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. The state strongly urged the park to slow down and utilize the authorized use of qualified volunteers to ensure the carcasses would not be wasted. The park ignored the letter.
In late February, GTNP ordered helicopter gunners to do their deed. The sharp shooters killed and left to waste 36 animals in one day. That same day afternoon, US Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, demanded an immediate halt to the park’s killing of the resident mountain goats. Governmental and public outcry clearly demonstrated the strong disapproval of the park’s wasteful removal tactics.
GTNP states that in order to protect the bighorn sheep from possible disease transmission from the goats, swift and immediate lethal removal was the best option. RMGA is left to wonder if GTNP ever had any intention to relocate their goats or to utilize volunteers. It seems those options were added to the plan to possibly only gain public support. We are disappointed with the hasty and wasteful lethal removal option the park has chosen.
RMGA is a strong advocate for the protection and conservation of wild sheep across North America. We understand why these steps towards removal were taken to protect GTNP’s native bighorns but wish the National Park would have utilized better approved removal options. We also contemplate the possibility that the park’s sheep may not endure much longer due to the endless increase of human pressure in the park. Will GTNP someday not be home to either sheep or goats?