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Mountain Goat removal to save Big Horns to begin Monday

Bighorn Sheep NPS C Adams
NPS / C. Adams

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK (KIFI/KIDK)-Wayward, non-native mountain goats have prompted Grand Teton National Park to implement a temporary area closure from January 5 through January 12.

The closure was ordered for public and operational safety while officials remove non-native mountain goats.

The affected area is bounded on the south by South, Middle and Grand Tetons, Mount Owen, and Teewinot Mountain peaks;bounded on the west by the park boundary; bounded on the east by the western shores of Jackson, Leigh, String, and Jenny Lakes; and bounded on the north by Rolling Thunder Mountain and Eagle Rest Peaks. The area will be signed at main access locations and no public access will be allowed.

The project will use lethal and non-lethal means to remove non-native mountain goats in order to protect a native and vulnerable population of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in the Teton Range. The management plan was recently completed.

Aerially-based lethal activities are considered the most efficient methods of removing the goats.

The National Park Service determined the Bighorn face the potential for local extinction unless the goats are moved as quickly as possible. Mountain Goats are not native to the park. They carry an increased risk of pathogen transmission for the big horn sheep herd.

Beginning Monday, helicopter-based removal efforts will be initiated by a qualified contractor. The first part of the project will be concentrated in the area between Cascade and Snowshoe Canyons, where the majority of the mountain goats are located.

Park officials say the mountain goat population is currently small enough to complete removal in a short time. But, the park said removal could become unattainable in the near future.

The bighorn sheep herd is currently estimated at about 100 animals. It is one of the smallest and most isolated herds in Wyoming. Likewise, there are an estimated 100 mountain goats in the area. They likely descend from a population that was introduced outside the park.

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