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Grand Teton National Park Is Gunning Down Mountain Goats To Save Bighorn Sheep

Diane Renkin / NPS
Nanny mountain goat with her kid on Sepulcher Mountain in Yellowstone National Park.

Herds of mountain goats occupy mountain ranges all around the Mountain West. Not all are native, though, and some of those transplants are causing problems. That's the case in Wyoming's Teton Range.

This week, Grand Teton National Park is closing part of the park while aerial gunners take out non-native goats.

"The mountain goats are threatening the existence of the native population [of bighorn sheep]," said park spokeswoman Denise Germann.

The Teton Range's bighorn sheep herd is small, isolated and in decline. "Prompt action is needed to remove or significantly reduce the non-native goats from the park to prevent the rapidly growing and expanding mountain goat population from displacing the small and declining population of native bighorn sheep," the park wrote in its environmental assessment of the eradication effort.

"The primary concern," Germann said, "is that the non-native mountain goats, they can transmit diseases or pathogens to the native bighorn sheep."

Germann says the goats can also displace the sheep on the already limited winter range. Right now, the park estimates there are about 100 goats in the area.

"The National Park Service has a responsibility to manage native populations, and as hard as it may be, our responsibility is to manage the bighorn sheep over the non-native mountain goats," Germann said.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Maggie Mullen, at mmullen5@uwyo.edu.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center For the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.


Maggie Mullen is Wyoming Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. Her work has aired on NPR, Marketplace, Science Friday, and Here and Now. She was awarded a 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her story on the Black 14.
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