Big Bend National Park is considering a measure to manage invasive, non-native species that have found their way onto the 800,000-acre park. The two animals they’re looking to control: aoudads and feral hogs. Officials say the two growing populations present a risk to the park’s natural resources.
Both Feral Hogs and Aoudads — which are also known as Barbary sheep — have been found in the park for decades. But park officials are growing concerned about the animals’ booming population. Now the National Park Service has proposed a management plan that calls for lethal use to control the two animals.
The shootings would happen either on the ground (after live trapping the animals), or in the air from helicopters. Wildlife biologist Raymond Skiles says the aoudads and feral hogs threaten the park’s biodiversity and the best control method is shooting them aerially, which provides an advantage over other tactics, especially considering the parks’ sprawling and rugged terrain. “Just getting access to the animals and then having the ability to rapidly and effectively reduce them,” says Skiles. “Really, that’s the only strategy that has expectations of success.”
The park says only certified professionals would be allowed to perform the aerial shootings and that they would be limited to times “during the hot summer months, when few visitors use the park’s back country” reads a press release.
Other methods considered – but eventually tabled include sonic deterrents, fertility control and constructing large-scale fences to keep the animals out of the park.
Currently, Skiles estimates there are between 200 and 400 aoudads in the park. There’s also about 50 feral hogs, which haven mainly been found in the northern parts of the park, but are expected to spread throughout. “All expectations are that [feral hogs] will expand into the park by way of the Rio Grande,” says Skiles. “So we want to be ahead of the curve and be prepared to prevent them from doing too much damage on the river.”
Officials are looking for public feedback on the proposed plan.