NEWS BRIEFS for Friday, Aug. 7, 2020 From Wyoming News Exchange newspapers

Teton goat cull to resume in September

JACKSON (WNE) — Unchaperoned groups of volunteers armed with rifles will be combing the rugged Tetons looking to eradicate the range’s remaining nonnative mountain goats starting in September.

The tightly regulated, ground-based lethal operation takes the place of a more efficient helicopter gunning effort that was underway last winter before U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt stepped in and halted an aerial cull at the urging of Gov. Mark Gordon.

Park officials unveiled Plan B on Thursday: a “qualified volunteer” program open to most Americans that will turn loose teams of two to six people who have passed marksmanship tests and met other standards.

When they encounter the sure-footed, white-coated goats within the designated zones they’re assigned to, volunteers will be encouraged to shoot and kill as many as possible, as long as the meat is recoverable.

“We want to put these volunteers in areas where they’re going to be successful,” Grand Teton National Park Chief Ranger Michael Nash said, “because that’s the goal of the program.”

The purpose of the cull is to protect an isolated native bighorn sheep herd, which shares habitat with the nonnative goats. Wildlife managers worry that the exotic goats could spread fatal diseases to the sheep, a population occupying the Tetons since the last Ice Age.

The park wants to eliminate the approximately 100 billies, nannies and kids that dwell there. The goat herd has thrived since arriving in the early 2000s, while the sheep population has withered.

Applications for the park’s volunteer goat cull program will be accepted online.


Gillette man dies in fall at Keyhole

GILLETTE (WNE) — A 29-year-old Gillette man fell off an embankment and died during a late-night walk while camping at Keyhole State Park.

The man, identified as Cameron MacNeil, was camping with his girlfriend at the Wind Creek Campground near the reservoir when the accident happened at about 2:15 a.m. July 22, according to a Wyoming State Parks report.

He was camping at the reservoir with his girlfriend, who called 911 and park rangers responded, said Nick Neylon, deputy director of Wyoming State Parks.

They found that while the couple was out for a walk, they came to the edge of a cliff, Neylon said. They were talking and MacNeil lost his footing and fell down the embankment.

The fall was about 20 feet, and there were large boulders below where the cliff met the water, which was about 2 feet deep at that point, Neylon said.

“There are a lot of big boulders down there and we surmised he hit his head and was unconscious,” Neylon said.

MacNeil died of blunt force trauma from the fall, said Crook County Coroner Micheal Frolander.

Ranger Brad Purcell responded to the fall and wrote in his report, which was released Wednesday afternoon, that MacNeil was “reportedly highly intoxicated” and “lost his footing and went down the steep embankment and off the cliff’s edge and fell the approximate 20 feet to the water.”


Prosecutors gear up for trial for former judge

TORRINGTON (WNE) — Filings in the Eighth Judicial District Court indicate special prosecutor Kevin Taheri is gearing up to go to trial in former attorney and Torrington Municipal Judge Greg Knudsen’s sexual abuse case. 

Knudsen faces more than 50 years in prison if he’s found guilty of three counts of felony sexual assault, felony burglary, five misdemeanor stalking charges and a misdemeanor charge for unlawful touching. 

Knudsen pleaded not guilty during an arraignment hearing in June, and though his attorney said during the hearing the sides are working on a plea deal, Taheri filed a series of boilerplate notices to obtain witness statements, written notice of Knudsen’s alibis and demanded to know if the defense plans to plead not guilty by reason of mental illness. 

As of press time, the defense had yet to file responses and no further court dates have been set. 

The allegations outlined in five Affidavits of Probable Cause, all filed by Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Brad Wnuk, begin in 2012 and contain allegations by multiple women who claim Knudsen took advantage of his position as their attorney.