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Rescue of 500 Wild Goats to Begin in a Month

Times Staff Writer

The rescue by helicopter of more than 500 wild goats on San Clemente Island, about 60 miles west of San Diego, is expected to resume July 5, a spokeswoman for an animal rights organization said Wednesday.

Paula Van Orden of the Fund for Animals said the operation will pick up where it left off last February when 870 of the animals were captured on the Navy-owned island and brought to the mainland, where all but about 100 have been adopted by private citizens.

Navy biologists have said that the goats, believed to be descendants of animals put on the island 200 years ago to provide food for passing sailors, have been destroying several species of plants, birds and animals that appear on the federal endangered species list. In order to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Act of 1973, the Navy, which uses portions of the island for bombing and gunnery practice, had planned to shoot the goats.

However, a last-minute reprieve was granted by Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger in answer to appeals from the Fund for Animals in early January of this year.

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During February and early March, a rescue team, using a helicopter piloted by Mel Cain of San Diego and with Bill Hales of New Zealand firing a net from low altitude, managed to capture more than half the estimated 1,200 to 1,500 goats then roaming the island.

Van Orden said the same team is expected to carry on the operation next month, trying to round up “somewhere between 500 and 700" animals believed to be there still.

Navy spokesman Ken Mitchell said Wednesday that final details of a capture agreement with the Fund for Animals probably will be completed late next week.


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