Aug. 24, 2004 After a year-long public review process, the V.I. National Park has put into place its plan to reduce significantly the goat and sheep populations within the park's St. John boundaries. The program is part of a wider plan to eliminate or reduce all non-native species of animals in the park.
Rafe Boulon, the park's chief of resource management, said Tuesday that people who let their goats and sheep roam in the park have until Oct. 30 to round them up.
After that, he said, that the V.I. Agriculture Department has agreed to trap the animals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will get involved later both trapping and shooting those not already removed.
Boulon said that if residents want goats or sheep caught in the park, they can put their names on a list.
The park needs to get rid of the animals because they cause massive environmental damage by eating the vegetation that holds the soil on the hillsides. The goats are the biggest problem, but the sheep also do damage.
And their numbers are increasing. "They keep breeding," Boulon said.
He said the situation is particularly acute in the Ram Head, Lameshur, Brown Bay and Leinster Bay areas. New herds at Lind Point and along the North Shore are causing damage in previously untouched areas, he added.
While soil erosion is the main problem, another is the fact that the goats and sheep leave behind unpleasant fecal deposits. Boulon said one visitor told him there were so many goat deposits at Ram Head that he couldn't find a place to sit down.
The park may erect fences at places where goats and sheep enter the park to forage. These locales are Herman Farm, L'Esperance, Catherineberg, Bordeaux, Hawksnest, Cinnamon Bay, Ram Head and Lameshur. Additionally, the park may make funding available to livestock owners to repair their fences.
Boulon said officials don't expect to get rid of all of the goats and sheep that live in the park, but they plan to cut the numbers low enough to reduce environmental damage significantly.
People who own livestock kept outside the park are expected to fence, register and tag their animals not just goats and sheep but also hogs and donkeys. But Boulon said that not everybody adheres to that local Agriculture Department mandate, and livestock often wander across park boundaries.
During the year that the public had to comment on the draft plan, Boulon said, the national Humane Society wrote to say it agreed with the park's methods. Boulon said the park also heard from an Arizona ranch that wanted the park to ship it the goats. That plan didn't fly when it turned out the ranch expected the park to foot the freight bill.
To get on the park's list for a free goat or sheep and to obtain information about free fencing, call Carrie Stengel at 693-8950, ext. 240.
For more information about the park's sheep and goat reduction plan, call Boulon at 693-8950, ext. 224. The entire plan is posted on both the V.I. National Park and the Friends of V.I. National Park Web sites. Copies also are available at the park Visitor Centers in Cruz Bay on St. John and in Christiansted on St. Croix, as well as at all of the territory's public libraries.
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