Shoshone forest strikes balance with pack goat rules
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Jackson, Wyoming
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Shoshone forest strikes balance with pack goat rules
Core bighorn areas remain off-limits, but conservationists, recreationists agree.
  • By Mike Koshmrl
The Shoshone National Forest has adopted a plan that appeases both the goat packing community and biologists trying to protect bighorn sheep from deadly diseases.
Concern about pathogens spreading from domestic to wild native ungulates prompted Shoshone officials to temporarily ban goat packing in 2011 on the majority of the forest’s nearly 2.5 million acres. The North American Packgoat Association sued, winning in part, and the disagreement continued after the forest issued long-term plans in draft form last year that weren’t viewed favorably by either party involved.
Then the stakeholders aired out their views and found a middle ground, and the Shoshone honored the pact, reflecting the agreement when it released final plans in late December.

“My hat is off to the stakeholders,” said Steve Kilpatrick, the Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation executive director and a Jackson resident, who was in the thick of the negotiations. “This usually doesn’t happen.”
Held in Lander in August and September, the meetings brought the North American Packgoat Association, the Shoshone National Forest, the National Wild Sheep Foundation and other stakeholders together. The U.S. Forest Service brought in a professional moderator to keep things productive. The kumbaya approach to settling differences worked, said Charlie Jennings, then-president of the Packgoat Association.
“She [the moderator] said we could either get involved in a head-butting contest and not accomplish anything,” Jennings said, “or we could try to see things from each other’s perspective and meet somewhere in the middle.”
“We felt like we compromised, and we worked out a solution that’s a win-win,” he said. “We’re good with it.”
The balance that was struck prohibits pack goats from territory used by core bighorn sheep herds in the Absaroka Range and Wind River Mountains. It was a concession the goat packers were willing to make, partially because of lack of use and the undesirable nature of the Absaroka as a goat packing destination.
“North of Whiskey Mountain is infested with grizzlies,” Jennings said. “Frankly I didn’t want to go in there anyway.”
Permits will required to bring the pack animals into the Shoshone in areas where they are allowed, which include the entire Washakie Ranger District and the southern reaches of the Wind River Ranger District. The Temple Peak Herd roams the area between the two pack-goat-friendly zones, but the Wyoming Game and Fish Department manage it as a lower-priority herd. The state agency agreed with the Shoshone that the Temple Peak sheep could be subject to a higher level of risk.
The Shoshone’s decision also calls for goat packers to abide by a strict set of rules, like stringing no more than three animals per person, leashing their goats and possessing proof of vaccinations.
The goat packers brought the mandatory restrictions to the table. Kilpatrick was impressed with the initiative.
“They certainly have concerns for bighorn sheep as well as their own recreational interests,” he said. “It’s a good example of responsible recreation and stewardship for the native species that are there.”
No Shoshone National Forest officials were available for an interview Tuesday.
Kilpatrick said Shoshone officials “almost took verbatim” the agreement that the North American Packgoat Association reached with bighorn conservationists.
Regional Forester Brian Ferebee, who OK’d the forest’s plans last month, wrote in his draft decision that he’s taking a “cautious approach” that recognizes the “very large and long-lasting” impact goats could have on the Shoshone’s prized sheep herds. The Shoshone also issued a final environmental impact statement that accompanied the decision. The public can object to the plans through Feb. 13.

“The magnitude of the consequences if disease were to be transmitted from pack goats to bighorn sheep places the risk of allowing pack goat use within occupied habitat for core native bighorn sheep herds beyond an acceptable risk,” Ferebee wrote.
The Shoshone and its rugged mountains house the most robust remaining bighorn sheep populations in Wyoming. About 4,500 of the Equality State’s estimated 6,000 bighorns live there, including six of the eight core herds — populations that were never extirpated. They roam as near to Jackson Hole as the Whiskey Mountain Herd, found outside Dubois in the northern Winds.
Bighorns are thought to have numbered as many 2 million before the West was settled, but they were nearly wiped out by overhunting, overgrazing and the spread of bacterial pathogens that domestic sheep carry innocuously but are deadly to the native sheep.
“The Native Americans used to say that when the white man showed up with their white sheep, the bighorns left,” Kilpatrick said. “Well, they died, is what happened.”
Domestic sheep grazing has disappeared from the Shoshone’s core herd areas, leaving pack goats as a potential disease transmission vector that has drawn managers’ attention. The practice of using goats in lieu of mules and horses to schlepp gear into the backcountry has gained popularity with elderly hikers, as well as with families and bow hunters, Jennings said.
The science linking goats used for packing to pneumonia in bighorn sheep, however, is much less clear than with domestic sheep. There has never been a documented case of a pack goat transmitting disease to a wild sheep. While domestic goats can carry pathogens that are usually fatal in wild sheep, when the two species have been experimentally penned together, there have not been catastrophic die-offs.
Many questions still remain, said Jennings, who wants Shoshone officials to be flexible if new science emerges.
Kilpatrick, in the meantime, is hopeful that the Shoshone’s pack goat planning process could be a template for other national forests with at-risk bighorn populations. The Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee are among those that lack similar regulations, he said, but have the opportunity to develop them through upcoming forest plan revisions.
“We need to have that open discussion that we had with the Shoshone,” Kilpatrick said, “which worked well, by the way.”

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067, or @JHNGenviro.
This article mentions vaccination--anybody know what vaccines would this be referring to? I'd like to take my goats into the high Sierra, but don't want to place any native wildlife at risk.
I'm not sure. I sometimes think people make this stuff up without much knowledge or thought. The only vaccinations I give are the CD+T. I give the first shot at about 2-3 months of age, then the booster three weeks later. I also vaccinate one year later. After that I plan to only give it to my wethers about once every 3 years or so. This vaccine wouldn't do anything to protect the Bighorns or other wildlife, though, since the diseases covered by the CD+T vaccine are not spread from one animal to another. There is a pneumonia vaccine that some people use for goats, but I've never used it myself, nor do I know how effective it is, nor what strain(s) of pneumonia it works for.
Hmm. The pneumonia one sounds like the only one likely to do any good. Hard to find anything specific online.
I like your name by the way! Made me laugh!
(01-08-2018, 02:51 PM)Nanno Wrote: I like your name by the way! Made me laugh!

I'm glad. Usually I have to explain it, and people look at me like a wierdo.
This is a new paper article. For information on this subject follow the Best Management Practices on NAPgA website.
I have been talking with my goat buddys about this subject quit a bit and this is the same compromise end game we came up with.  I am very happy with the compromise that was reached and as it said it serves as a template for other states.  Good stuff!!!
I'm not so sure. I'm very uncomfortable with permitting systems. They can be draconian and effectively become a ban in their own right. For places that already have total bans in place, it could be an improvement. But so far bans have not been implemented in most places, so implementing a permit system would be a huge step backwards in my opinion. What I'd really prefer to see is the government and WSF acknowledging the fact that packgoats are proving not to be a danger to Bighorns as was previously assumed. Goats should not be viewed as "higher risk" than other types of stock.

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