Grand Teton helicopter mountain goat shoot fells 50 invasive animals

JACKSON, Wyo. — Contractors hired by Grand Teton National Park have killed 50 invasive mountain goats this week in a campaign to protect the park’s herd of native bighorn sheep.

Jeremy Barnum, the park’s chief of staff, told The Jackson Hole News&Guide late Thursday that an “overwhelming majority” of the goats have been removed from the Teton Range. The helicopter shooting operation will continue for several more days.

The goats migrated from Idaho into the Tetons. They are considered a risk to a small herd of native, isolated sheep in the range because they compete for limited high-altitude habitat and carry disease that can threaten the bighorns. The park estimates the bighorn population at about 125.

“The potential risk to the bighorn sheep herd has been dramatically reduced,” Barnum said. “And that’s the end goal.”

Park officials have posted signs at trailheads to alert backcountry skiers about the operation. Helicopter crews are instructed to avoid areas used by skiers or after spotting ski tracks.

Grand Teton park first used helicopter crews in 2020 to shoot the goats but stopped after Gov. Mark Gordon and others asked park officials to let hunters do the job. The mountain goat population was estimated at 100 before removal operations started in 2020.

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