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Grand Teton: 36 mountain goats killed in helicopter shooting

FILE - In this July 15, 2016, file photo, a mountain goat leads its kid across the Mount Evans Scenic Byway just below the summit near Idaho Springs, Colo. Grand Teton National Park officials have suspended efforts to shoot mountain goats from a helicopter after criticism from Wyoming's governor prompted Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to intervene. Bernhardt told park officials to suspend the shooting Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, hours after the effort began and Gordon called the helicopter shooting a "farce" in a letter to acting Grand Teton Superintendent Gopaul Noojidail, Gov. Mark Gordon spokesman Michael Pearlman said Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — Sharpshooters killed 36 mountain goats from a helicopter in a contested effort to eradicate the nonnative animals from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Four days after Interior Secretary David Bernhardt intervened to stop the shooting on the day it began, park officials released the tally Tuesday to the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

About 100 mountain goats, descendants of animals introduced outside the park decades ago, inhabit the Teton Range. Using a combination of shooters in the air and eventually on the ground, park officials say they want to eradicate the goats because they compete with bighorn sheep for food and habitat and can spread diseases including pneumonia to the native animals.

About 100 bighorns live in the Tetons.

Wyoming officials oppose the helicopter gunning, saying it causes the goat meat to go to waste. After bad weather postponed previous plans to use a helicopter to kill goats in January, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission passed a resolution opposing the helicopter shooting.

Clear and calm weather allowed the shooting to begin Friday afternoon. Soon after, Gov. Mark Gordon released a letter telling the park’s acting superintendent, Gopaul Noojidail, the shoot was a “farce” that disregarded state sovereignty.

The letter prompted Bernhardt to tell park officials Friday evening to suspend the shooting.

Gordon had a “productive” meeting Tuesday with Noojidail to discuss how to help the bighorns, park officials said in a statement.

Park officials have reopened a large portion of the Teton Range closed off for the operation. The mountains in the park get fewer visitors in winter than during the busy summer tourist season.

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