September 11, 2020
Denise Germann, 307.739.3393
The culling of non-native mountain goats from Grand Teton National Park will begin September 14 as part of a management plan to conserve a native and vulnerable population of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the Teton Range.
Up to 70 volunteer teams, consisting of a minimum of two individuals and a maximum of six individuals per team, were randomly selected for seven operational periods between September 14 - November 6. An optional operational period in mid-November may be included, depending on conditions.
Each randomly selected applicant must pass a background investigation, and may not have active warrants, past wildlife violations, or violations associated with Grand Teton National Park. Volunteers identified as a shooter must pass a mandatory firearm proficiency evaluation. Each volunteer must have a high level of physical fitness as they may need to hike up to 20 miles per day at altitude in extremely rough mountainous terrain under a variety of weather conditions.
Additional required testing and comprehensive training to safely and successfully participate in this program includes bear spray deployment, backcountry tracking, radio protocols, species identification, and disease sample collection. Each volunteer will receive this testing and training on the first day of each operational period. Volunteers must be United States citizens and at least 18 years of age.
The volunteer teams will each be assigned one of ten geographic zones throughout the entire Teton Range within the park. The non-native mountain goats are generally found at high elevations. Qualified volunteers may access these zones from a variety of trailheads, as well as national forest lands to the west of the park.
All volunteers for the culling program will be clearly identified as a 'National Park Service Qualified Volunteer' with an orange bib on their back as well as an orange or pink hat.
No park trails or areas are anticipated to be closed during the culling program. Signs will be posted at trailheads that access the areas the volunteers will be working to create awareness for any backcountry hikers or climbers.
For more information about the project, visit https://www.nps.gov/grte/getinvolved/mountain-goat-management-volunteer.htm.
The use of qualified volunteers is a tool identified in the National Park Service's 2019 Mountain Goat Management Plan based on requests from Wyoming Game and Fish Department and in line with guidance in the 2019 John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act.
There is widespread interest among local, state, and national stakeholders in conserving the Teton Range bighorn sheep herd. The National Park Service is working on this project in cooperation with federal and state partners including the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The Teton Range is home to a small herd of native bighorn sheep currently estimated at approximately 100 animals. As one of the smaller and most isolated herds in Wyoming, that has never been extirpated or augmented, it is of high conservation value to the park, adjacent land and wildlife managers, and visitors. The National Park Service has a responsibility to protect native species and reduce the potential for local extinction of a native species within the park.
More than 240 teams applied to assist with the removal of the non-native mountain goats as National Park Service volunteers, with the majority of the applicants from Wyoming.
Mountain goats are not native to Grand Teton National Park. Mountain goats were introduced into the Snake River Range in Idaho and over the years, their population expanded and reached the Teton Range. Mountain goats can carry bacterial diseases that are lethal to bighorn sheep. The Teton Range bighorn sheep population has been relatively isolated and are therefore likely 'naïve' to these diseases.
The growth rate of the non-native mountain goat population suggests that complete removal in the future may become unattainable unless immediate action is taken.
There are key differences between a culling program in a national park and traditional recreational hunting.
Culling in a national park is done exclusively for conservation and stewardship purposes, while hunting is primarily for recreation or procuring food.
Culling in a national park is conducted under controlled circumstances with the supervision of National Park Service personnel, while hunting is performed at the hunter's discretion, subject to applicable licensing and laws.
Volunteers may not keep a trophy when participating in a culling program in a national park. The meat may be donated or distributed to Indian Tribes, qualified volunteers, food banks, and other organizations that work to address hunger, in accordance with applicable health guidelines.
Culling in a national park does not generate revenue and does not include fair chase.