Why are they being hunted? Mountain goats are an invasive species in the Teton Range. An invasive species is an organism that causes ecological harm to an environment in which it is not native. These mountain goats are harming native Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep by increasing competition for extremely limited resources and contributing to disease transmission. Currently, the population of bighorn sheep is estimated to be around 100. With such limited numbers, we must do everything to protect this native population if we wish to maintain the native landscape in the Grand Tetons.
Where are these invasive goats from, and how did they get to the Tetons? Mountain goats are native to Alaska, the Canadian Rockies, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. These mountain goats have been roaming the Tetons since they were introduced into the nearby Snake River Range in the 1960s for sport hunting purposes.
How are they being hunted? Hunting efforts began in 2020 using two different tactics. The first and most efficient method used was helicopter gunning. However, this strategy received backlash and was terminated the day it started. Despite its short run, this strategy eliminated 36 goats in half a day. The second tactic that is currently being used is enlisting and training volunteer hunters. While this strategy has been much slower, the volunteer teams have managed to whittle down the population, and at the end of 2020, the majority of the mountain goats had been taken out. The volunteer teams are still active, but they are having difficulty hunting down the last few goats, and it is estimated that only about 29 remain.
What do you think? Is this the best way to do this? Should we be doing this? While this plan sounds quite brutal and unfair to mountain goats, it is The National Park’s job to protect local ecosystems from human activities at the end of the day. In this case, human activities have led to populations of nonnative mountain goats outcompeting and threatening the extinction of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. The National Park Service signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Mountain goat Management Plan/Environmental Assessment. This means that the plan should not negatively impact local ecosystems. In addition to this, non-lethal removal and redistribution of goat meat from lethal activities have been approved by the plan.
What do you think about this plan? Should more resources be allocated to relocate the entire population of mountain goats as opposed to killing them? Or should the much more efficient strategy of eliminating goats via helicopter gunning be reapproved to eliminate the mountain goat population as quickly as possible?