Helicopter-borne Navy marksmen have slaughtered 461 wild goats on San Clemente Island, a Navy spokesman said in San Diego Friday.
The shotgun slayings are the latest move in a years-long effort to eradicate the goats, which biologists say are chewing up plants and threatening the habitats of certain birds and lizards on the federal Endangered Species lists.
Navy spokesman Ken Mitchell said the shootings took place during the first three days of July. He said there was no effort made to recover the carcasses because of the steep, cliff-scarred terrain on the island, which is often used for naval gunnery practice.
At Lowest Level
"We feel that the goat population on the island is at its lowest level ever now, and we plan to make a survey soon to determine how many might be left," Mitchell said.
Cleveland Amory, author and president of the Fund for Animals, a group which managed to relocate about 3,400 of the goats during the last three years, reacted bitterly to news of the shootings.
"We were not informed as to how, when and if the shooting was going to take place until it was all over," Amory said Friday. "The Navy is very good at shooting but they're no good at rescuing. If they had shown a little patience, and a desire not to shoot, our rescue efforts could have kept the (goat) population under control without harming them. There's nothing we can do now."
The Navy had planned early in 1985 to institute a shooting program. But it was put off by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, who intervened on behalf of the Fund for Animals, which then relocated the animals.
Hundreds of such goats were brought to a shelter at Ramona in San Diego County, where they were adopted by private individuals, Amory said. San Clemente island is about 60 miles west of San Diego.