JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - As few as 29 nonnative mountain goats remain in Teton Range in Wyoming after aggressive efforts to hunt the animals out of existence, wildlife officials said.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department conducted an aerial survey of the animals that also found 90 native bighorn sheep, the species native to the area, Jackson Hole News & Guide reported Thursday.
"I was happy we counted 90 sheep," department Jackson Region wildlife biologist Aly Courtemanch said. "That shows that the herd is hanging on, but I still have concerns about that bighorn sheep population."
Goats are considered a risk to native sheep in the range, through competition for habitat and the risk of disease transmission.
Courtemanch said the nonnative goats were found in Grand Teton National Park with just four kids, meaning the population was on the downswing. Previous surveys found evidence of 88 goats in 2019 and 56 goats in 2020.
Park officials last year used two different tactics to cull its goat population, including helicopter gunning and hunting by enlisted and trained volunteers. The efforts last year killed 79 goats, the majority of the estimated population.
The state Game and Fish Department also authorized hunting outside the park in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Twenty-three goats were killed in 2019, but hunters didn't kill as many last year.
"Hunters were having a hard time finding goats," Courtemanch said, adding that it was a sign the goat population was declining. Courtemanch said she was confident with the estimate that there were 29 remaining goats.
It is unclear what strategy authorities will approve to finish off the few dozen remaining goats. Park spokeswoman Denise Germann said officials are determining how to move forward.