Helicopter Sharpshooters Kill Dozens of Mountain Goats in Wyoming National Park

Mountain goats in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming were culled by sharpshooters in helicopters. In total, 38 animals were killed last Friday in an effort to remove the non-native animals from the population by lethal and non-lethal (capture and relocation) methods, the Associated Press reported.

The goats currently roaming the park are thought to have descended from a herd introduced outside Grand Teton. There are thought to be about 100 goats, but officials are concerned that the population could increase, making their presence in the region irreversible.

According to the National Park Service (NPS), "The mountain goat population is currently at a size where complete removal is achievable in a short time, however, the growth rate of this population suggest that complete removal in the near future may become unattainable after a period of about three years."

Mountain goats threaten the health of the native bighorn sheep in the park by providing competition for food. They are also a health hazard, as they can pass on disease, like pneumonia, to other animals living in the area.

The NPS describes the status of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the park as "tenuous." According to the NPS, it is one of the smallest and most isolated herds in the state.

However, there has been opposition to the killing of the goats. According to the AP, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt got involved on Friday, asking officials to suspend the program removing the species from the park following criticism from the state's governor.

In a letter addressed to the acting Grand Teton Superintendent Gopaul Noojidail, Gov Mark Gordon wrote, "Let me begin by expressing my profound disappointment that the National Park Service chose to act unilaterally aerially executing mountain goats over the State of Wyoming's objections."

He described the culling as a "farce" he will long remember, saying he was "simply at a loss" as to why park officials had not worked toward a solution they could both agree with.

"I have long appreciated Grand Teton National Park for the treasure it is to all our citizens," Gordon added. "Now I hope I will not have to remember it as an example of federal disregard for the sovereignty of the states."

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department had previously condemned the use of aerial lethal removal, instead calling for the use of skilled volunteer hunters to reduce mountain goat numbers in a resolution passed last month.

"Leaving carcasses to rot, where there is no utilization of that resource, rather than allow sportsman to go out with park supervision and training to harvest an animal—like is done with elk—I can't understand that decision," Game and Fish Commissioner Pat Crank said in a statement at the time.

The department reaffirmed their position last week in a statement.

Mountain Goat Wyoming
The National Park Service took efforts to remove non-native mountain goats from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Thirty-eight were killed before the hunt was suspended by the Interior Secretary. Getty/Eric Cote