- Associated Press - Monday, July 28, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - The superintendent of Denali National Park and Preserve plans to temporarily ban certain pets after a local resident was cited for hiking on park trails with his pet goat this summer.

Park Superintendent Don Striker said domestic goats pose a significant risk to Denali’s Dall sheep population. He said he is planning to implement a temporary closure barring access to pet goats and to bring up the issue at an official hearing, likely next year, as a step toward making the ban permanent. Striker said temporary closures can last anywhere from 30 days to a couple of years.

“Not that I’m expecting there to be this huge influx all of a sudden of people wanting to walk their goats,” he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1rSh3SX). “But, sort of, do people realize this is a highly, highly, highly risky proposition for our Dall sheep?”

In a letter to the editor that ran in the paper earlier this month, Striker said the wild sheep are particularly vulnerable to diseases and parasites carried by domestic livestock since they have not had previous exposure. Accidental exposure to a single domestic animal, like a goat, could have devastating effects for the sheep, he said.

John Quinley, a spokesman for the regional office of the National Park Service, said pets generally are allowed in most areas in national parks in Alaska as long as they are on leashes up to 6 feet long. But he said many parks have individual bans on pets in certain areas, like trail systems.

Since the park service doesn’t define pets by individual species, a goat technically is treated the same as a dog or a goldfish under the rule, he said. However, superintendents can implement more specific bans in their parks.

Corey Furrow, the Anderson resident cited for hiking with his pet goat, said he understands the park’s need to protect Dall sheep. But he said his animal, Dr. Gonzo, was on a leash.

Furrow was cited for walking with his pet in an area where all pets are restricted. He said he recognizes his mistake and doesn’t want to put any animals in the park at risk. But he said he’s still disappointed in the park service response.

“I live down here. It’s my backyard. I’ve hiked dogs in the past, and nobody’s said anything,” Furrow said. “It’s just inconvenient.”


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com