The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is calling on the National Park Service to cancel its plans to use aerial gunning to remove invasive mountain goats from Grand Teton National Park.
On Wednesday, the commission passed a resolution condemning the plan, writing, "Having government personnel kill mountain goats from helicopters and leaving them to rot and be wasted is unacceptable."
Gunning down invasive mountain goats to help protect native bighorn sheep was supposed to begin last week, but wind and snow kept helicopters grounded, forcing the park to wait for better weather. But the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission-the governor-appointed policymaking board of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department-wants to stop it all together.
"We believe hunters have the opportunity to do this in a better way than just gunning them out of a helicopter," said Game and Fish spokesperson Rebekah Fitzgerald.
The Park Service disagrees. Grand Teton's Denise Germann said they are working against the clock, since the mountain goats threaten a small and vulnerable population of native bighorn sheep.
"We need to be efficient as we can, as quickly as we can," Germann said.
"Non-native mountain goats present a potential threat to the Teton Range bighorn sheep population from transmission of pathogens that could result in disease and competition for forage or other resources, especially on limited winter ranges," the Park Service wrote in its rationale for helicopter-based mountain goat removal.
Germann also said hunting is not allowed in national parks, and noted the difference between hunting and culling.
"Hunting is more of a recreational activity, it has elements of fair chase, you can have personal take of the meat. When you're culling, it's a tool to manage wildlife, but it's not recreational."
Aerial efforts remain planned for the end of January or early February.
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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.