Here’s the deal. Our National Park Service, the same folks who brought you an overabundance of grizzly bears and droves of free ranging, imported Canadian wolves, now want to gun down over 100 so-called “nonnative,” (their words), mountain goats by helicopter. Sort of like they shoot feral hogs in Texas.
Actually this is occurring in Grand Teton National Park and the folks running the show are using the excuse that they are afraid those few mountain goats will pass some, as yet unknown and unnamed, disease to what the park service considers actually true National Park natives, the bighorn sheep. Whatever, this whole park agenda to eliminate the mountain goats stinks of animal-based genocide to me.
I did another double take when learning that our Wyoming state wildlife folks are actually registering a protest against, not the slaughter, but the method used. They don’t want to save the goats, they just want to use sportsmen to eliminate the goats instead of park personnel. Granted, that method makes more sense economically and realistically, if not ecologically or humanely. Unfortunately the park administration thinks using civilian hunters may be too expensive.
Really? Last I heard, choppers went for $1,500 an hour just for a pilot and fuel. Whereas, a raffle for an exclusive license or two for hunting mountain goats in the park could net hundreds of thousands of dollars for the park’s general fund, or fund transplanting the survivors. Rich people will spend hundreds of thousands for an exclusive license, hire a platoon of guides and outfitters to organize the circus and travel thousands of miles to shoot a choice specimen. All in the name of wildlife preservation and free enterprise.
To my mind, in the public realm of anything, putting money back in the purse sure beats throwing it away wholesale.
Even if the historical record doesn’t mention mountain goats living inside the park perimeters, (One of the excuses for killing them off) how do we know that prehistorically those goats didn’t exist there at some time? Mountain goats could have been in a variety of places before white folks landed on these shores and started their wildlife killing spree. Or climate change, predators and other factors moved them to somewhere else.
Years ago I enjoyed photographing the goats living in the upper Clarks Fork and the Beartooths and following them around. At one time in my life I thought I would also enjoy harvesting a big billy with a full growth of horn and hair for the trophy room and put in for a permit for nearly four decades without drawing one, before giving up. When a critter is so scarce that hunting permits are next to impossible to draw, intelligent use should indicate that we husband that resource, not eliminate it.
For me that ship has sailed, but there are a host of folks out there who would enjoy the opportunity to hunt these uncommonly magnificent creatures. An actual hunt, not a cull. Why eliminate a species that is rare at best? Why destroy over 100 goats just to satisfy some bureaucratic whim? Why not transplant them in a different region more amenable to the goats and more accessible to the public like in the Wind River Mountains or some of our wilderness areas? It makes more sense than slaughtering them wholesale.
However, it’s been proven time and again that you can’t talk sense to a bunch of bureaucrats bent on having their own way. A perfect example of that is Montana’s stance against having anybody but their state game wardens and their appointed pig shooters killing any of the wild hogs reportedly invading from Canada.
The official stance on feral hogs in Montana is that having ordinary citizens shooting them on sight will make them harder to find and to trap and kill. The state game dudes claim since feral hogs are very intelligent animals, unrestrained public shooting will scatter them and make them nocturnal and harder to find. Really? Uniformed shooters don’t scare hogs? This is a case where the hogs are miles ahead of the bureaucrats.
Fleshing out the story a bit, a major concern currently for all wildlife managers is the burgeoning numbers of dead elk, deer and moose, courtesy of CWD. Scientists started it, (an interesting story in itself) and since then it’s grown way beyond their ability to contain or control. Apparently only a few deer and elk posses an immunity to the brain-destroying prions that constitute the fatal disease, but it’s unknown whether they can pass this immunity along to their descendents. If not, perhaps our public deer herds are a thing of the past. Deer hunting, as we know it, will end. The hope is that even with increasing levels of CWD, some disease resistent herds will survive and possibly prosper.
What does CWD have to do with feral hogs? Perhaps 20 years down the road, those nasty, but tasty feral hogs whose invasion of every state seems to be unstoppable and unmanageable by present game departments, will replace deer as the No. 1 target for local sportsmen. Hunters who enjoy spending money on everything from guided hunts to expensive firearms and all the accouterments in between to obtain trophy heads and freezer meat.
Hog hunting is big business in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and yes, even Africa. Not to mention in feral hog-infested states like Texas. Why not cash in and sell tags for them too? Plus, grizzlies and wolves might enjoy the occasional bacon bits with their breakfast. After all, it is the other white meat.
Granted, these porcine monsters carry their own set of challenges and, yes, diseases too. Still, hunting them, especially when you understand that the big boars can, and will, fight back, is a real hoot. There’s a reason they’re called “the poor man’s grizzly.” Of course, if previous experience with our other wildlife herds is any example, once legalized, regulated hunting is initiated and controlled by the state, it will probably only take the department a few years to destroy the hog herds too, eliminating two problems at one time.
In closing, all I can think of to say is “Sooooeeeey!” Not sorry.