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HomeNewsArchivesPARK ERADICATION PROGRAM TURNS TO SHEEP, GOATS

PARK ERADICATION PROGRAM TURNS TO SHEEP, GOATS

Dec. 17, 2002 – Goats and sheep will be the next to go as V.I. National Park authorities plow ahead on their plan to rid the park of non-native species.
"Because of the permeable boundary surrounding the park, goats and sheep will always enter and establish breeding populations that negatively impact the environment," Superintendent John King said.
The rest of St. John outside the park boundaries also suffers. The unwanted animal problem is particularly troublesome in formerly rural areas around Coral Bay, where residents continually clash with free-roaming goats and sheep.
Rafe Boulon, park chief of resource management, said the authorities will deal only with animals found on park property and will not interfere with goats and sheep living on private land located within park boundaries.
King said goats and sheep impact negatively on vegetation by grazing, accelerating soil erosion, distributing seeds, creating trails, changing plant distribution patterns, reducing plant cover and trampling growth. They have a taste for several plants on the federal endangered species list, including the St. Thomas lid flower, prickly ash and Marron Bacora, as well as some 25 species on the territory's threatened and endangered list.
And they destroy wildlife habitats and compete with wildlife for food.
King said the animals graze small shrubs and grasses very close to the ground and tear up roots, preventing plant regrowth.
He said eliminating the goats and sheep from park property is the only way to solve the problems they pose.
Boulon said the most likely scenario for doing so starts with a roundup by a U.S. Department of Agriculture team that would kill the animals with a single bullet through the brain. The meat would be distributed to residents interested in hauling home a carcass, he said.
Boulon anticipates that it will be at least six months until this project begins.
A draft environmental assessment plan will be available for public comment later.
Boulon said that when park officials asked for comments on their recent plan to get rid of pigs, only the national office of the Humane Society responded. He said the concern expressed had to do with an alternative way to get rid of the pigs.
With that public comment part of the pig eradication program out of the way, park officials are waiting for a U.S.D.A. team to start eliminating them. They, too, will be shot. Boulon said St. John residents used to hunt pigs on park property and that some of those hunters have expressed an interest in helping capture the pigs. He said they will not handle firearms but will help with trapping in exchange for the meat.
Boulon said the pigs have proliferated throughout the park, "having babies left and right."
The park program to get rid of non-native species first focused on cats, rats and mongooses. Boulon said volunteers from the Animal Care Center of St. John trapped just about all of the cats. Those that were adoptable found homes, those too wild to live in a home were relocated to feeding stations and sick ones were put to sleep.
Boulon said a U.S.D.A. team made one visit to deal with the rats and mongooses and plans a return visit to get rid of the rest of them using a humane poison that will put them to sleep.
"They're making good inroads," he said.

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Dec. 17, 2002 - Goats and sheep will be the next to go as V.I. National Park authorities plow ahead on their plan to rid the park of non-native species.
"Because of the permeable boundary surrounding the park, goats and sheep will always enter and establish breeding populations that negatively impact the environment," Superintendent John King said.
The rest of St. John outside the park boundaries also suffers. The unwanted animal problem is particularly troublesome in formerly rural areas around Coral Bay, where residents continually clash with free-roaming goats and sheep.
Rafe Boulon, park chief of resource management, said the authorities will deal only with animals found on park property and will not interfere with goats and sheep living on private land located within park boundaries.
King said goats and sheep impact negatively on vegetation by grazing, accelerating soil erosion, distributing seeds, creating trails, changing plant distribution patterns, reducing plant cover and trampling growth. They have a taste for several plants on the federal endangered species list, including the St. Thomas lid flower, prickly ash and Marron Bacora, as well as some 25 species on the territory's threatened and endangered list.
And they destroy wildlife habitats and compete with wildlife for food.
King said the animals graze small shrubs and grasses very close to the ground and tear up roots, preventing plant regrowth.
He said eliminating the goats and sheep from park property is the only way to solve the problems they pose.
Boulon said the most likely scenario for doing so starts with a roundup by a U.S. Department of Agriculture team that would kill the animals with a single bullet through the brain. The meat would be distributed to residents interested in hauling home a carcass, he said.
Boulon anticipates that it will be at least six months until this project begins.
A draft environmental assessment plan will be available for public comment later.
Boulon said that when park officials asked for comments on their recent plan to get rid of pigs, only the national office of the Humane Society responded. He said the concern expressed had to do with an alternative way to get rid of the pigs.
With that public comment part of the pig eradication program out of the way, park officials are waiting for a U.S.D.A. team to start eliminating them. They, too, will be shot. Boulon said St. John residents used to hunt pigs on park property and that some of those hunters have expressed an interest in helping capture the pigs. He said they will not handle firearms but will help with trapping in exchange for the meat.
Boulon said the pigs have proliferated throughout the park, "having babies left and right."
The park program to get rid of non-native species first focused on cats, rats and mongooses. Boulon said volunteers from the Animal Care Center of St. John trapped just about all of the cats. Those that were adoptable found homes, those too wild to live in a home were relocated to feeding stations and sick ones were put to sleep.
Boulon said a U.S.D.A. team made one visit to deal with the rats and mongooses and plans a return visit to get rid of the rest of them using a humane poison that will put them to sleep.
"They're making good inroads," he said.

Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much -- and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice ... click here.