One has to wonder what it will take to convince the National Park Service that killing off Grand Teton Park’s non-native goat population via helicopter gunners is a candidate for the worst idea ever award.
The latest opponent of the plan is another government agency — the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish.
Game and Fish says the use of helicopter gunners to fatally shoot the park’s approximately 100 non-native mountain goats “flies in the face of all Wyoming values.”
If judging from the growing list of critics of the goat-killing plan, the ill-conceived slaughter goes against the grain of most people’s values — with the exceptions apparently being the higher-ups at Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming as well as their bosses at the National Park Service.
Late last year when Grand Teton park first announced the helicopter gunner plan to kill the non-native mountain goats, park officials said they would close much of the park to reduce the chance that a stray bullet from one the helicopters could hit an innocent park-goer.
We believe that regardless of what the park does to prevent such an accidental shooting, the chance of a person out hiking the park being wounded or killed during one of the strafing sorties will remain.
And what a public relations nightmare that would be for both the park and National Park Service.
But we also take issue with the notion itself that the best way to rid the park of these allegedly troublesome non-native goats is to kill the animals.
Grand Teton Park officials say that the non-native goats are competing for food with the Teton Range’s declining native species of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. In response to this problem, the non-native goats apparently need to be not just killed but shot via helicopter gunners.
Our experience with these matters is that there’s almost always a non-lethal way to solve the problem.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen cases where the government agencies in charge of managing wildlife decide to choose lethal methods more for convenience than anything else.
Has Grand Teton Park or the National Park Service even asked the nation’s many zoos and wildlife sanctuaries if they’d be interested in taking in the goats so that they will be spared from slaughter?
Many years ago, a government agency that operates here in Idaho decided that some motherless mountain lion kittens in the Pocatello area needed to be executed because they had grown too comfortable around people and apparently wouldn’t survive the winter.
So that agency decided the best course was for these mountain lion kittens to be fatally shot.
After the execution was carried out, it was discovered there were multiple zoos and wildlife sanctuaries that would have gladly provided a home for these animals.
But those zoos and sanctuaries were never even asked.
The big difference between that episode and what’s going on at Grand Teton Park is that there’s still time for the decision to exterminate the non-native mountain goats to be rescinded and for a non-lethal approach to be implemented.
Once the winter weather clears, Grand Teton park officials say they will deploy the helicopters and commence firing on the goats.
Park officials have literally stuck to their guns regarding their goat-killing plans despite the mounting opposition, which has even come from national organizations.
The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says the plan to kill the goats via helicopter gunners “is the stuff of warfare.”
Wyoming Game and Fish says the plan to leave the carcasses of the approximately 100 non-native goats where they’re mowed down by the helicopter gunners is difficult to comprehend — and that’s putting it politely. Game and Fish said at very least the goats should be shot by hunters on the ground, not in the air, in a controlled setting under the close supervision of park personnel.
As long as human beings run government, bone-headed decisions like the proposed helicopter assault on Grand Teton park’s non-native goats will occur.
The best any of us can hope for is once the boneheadedness has been pointed out, in this case even by another government agency, that the plans are changed.
When it comes to government, that’s what a win looks like.
While there’s still time, those in charge at Grand Teton park and the National Park Service need to realize the error of their ways and change course.
Because that’s what good government does.