Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt stopped the mountain goat culling that was scheduled to begin on Friday, February 21st, in Grand Teton National Park (GTNP). This was the Park’s second attempt in 2020 to remove a population of mountain goats that potentially pose a threat of spreading disease to the native bighorn sheep population and compete with the sheep for habitat.
The Park’s first announcement of area closures for “helicopter-based lethal removal efforts” came in the first few days of 2020. “In order to aid in the conservation of a native and vulnerable population of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the Teton Range, the National Park Service is implementing a recently finalized management plan to remove nonnative mountain goats from the park via lethal and nonlethal means.”
Soon after the Park’s initial announcement, the Wyoming Game & Fish Commission called for the cancellation of aerial gunning and condemned the National Parks Service. “This decision to use aerial gunning flies in the face of all Wyoming values with how we approach wildlife management,” said Game and Fish Commissioner Mike Schmid. The commission’s resolution called for the National Park Service to immediately cancel plans to kill the goats through aerial gunning and instead implement a plan allowing the goats to be removed by skilled volunteers. The resolution passed unanimously with the commissioners opting for a rare roll call vote to clearly articulate and memorialize their message. In a letter dated January 28th, 2019, the Department formally recommended the Park to use skilled volunteers for mountain goat removal.
On February 20th, GTNP announced again area closures in the Park beginning Friday, February 21st, for the removal of mountain goats. Their planned form of lethal removal remained the same.
Wyoming Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik again called for the stop of aerial gunning of mountain goats in the Park. In a phone call to Gopaul Noojibail, acting Grand Teton Park Superintendent, Game and Fish made a third request to stop aerial gunning to remove mountain goats from the Targhee herd.
Following Nesvik’s request, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon announced publicly on Friday evening that he also condemns the aerial gunning of mountain goats in Grand Teton National Park. Gordon sent a strongly-worded letter to Noojibail and shared it with Bernhardt as well. Bernhardt reportedly ordered a “stand down.”
Gordon shared his gratitude for the cancellation of the mountain goat culling, “I appreciate the excellent working relationship we have with Secretary Bernhardt and that he is willing to discuss this issue in more detail without the pressure of ongoing aerial hunting,” Governor Gordon said. “I look forward to a more fruitful conversation about better ways to address this issue in a more cooperative manner.”
“We remain prepared to work with Grand Teton to meet their management objectives using methods that align with the value Wyoming people have for wildlife,” Nesvik said.