Animal preservationists announced Tuesday that the Navy has issued another reprieve to the wild goats of San Clemente Island, indefinitely postponing plans to slaughter the animals and allowing resumption of a rescue program.
The killing by gunfire had been set to start at dawn Thursday.
The Navy has argued that it has to remove the wild animals from the island, used largely for bombing practice, to comply with the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The goats have been blamed for eating certain plants and ruining the habitat of several species of birds and animals on the endangered species list.
It was the fourth time since 1979 that plans to shoot the island's wild goats have been called off at the last minute. The last time, in January, Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger intervened at the request of the New York-based Fund for Animals and allowed the organization to carry out a rescue operation that began in early February and ended Monday.
870 Goats Taken
At that time, there were an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 goats on the Navy-owned island, 60 miles off the coast of San Diego. Cleveland Amory, author and head of the Fund for Animals, said that as of Monday a team of trappers firing a net from a helicopter had captured 870 goats.
"The success of this operation undoubtedly impressed the Navy, and was part of a very reasonable proposal that our attorney, Dana Cole, made to them," Amory said.
The decision was announced in a statement by the Navy's information office in Washington. It said, in part, that not only will the Fund for Animals be granted additional time for netting goats this summer when the island is not being used for military bombing operations, but also will be allowed to enter the shore bombardment area where many of the goats take refuge. Access to that portion of the island previously had been restricted because of the danger posed by unexploded bombs and shells.