Authorities at Grand Canyon National Park will soon be seeking skilled hunters to help cull the park’s bison herd. The National Park Service (NPS) wants to reduce bison numbers because they are damaging the park’s natural resources. Some animals will be captured and shipped out of the area while others will be legally hunted in forests adjacent to the park’s North Rim. Volunteer shooters will be selected via lottery to help bring the bison numbers in the northern reaches of the park from 600 to 200 in the next three to five years.
The National Park Service only recently approved the plan and has yet to establish the final details of the program. It is likely that the park will use blueprints from the successful volunteers-as-agents programs in Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado), Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota) and Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota) to cull elk overpopulations in those areas. The reduction plan would allow hunters, working with NPS and Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) employees, to shoot bison with non-lead ammunition. Not only will the habitat improve from the cull, but federally protected California condors that feed on gut piles in the area will also benefit.
Grand Canyon is working with the AGFD, as well as the Intertribal Bison Council, to craft the guidelines for the volunteer culls. NPS officials warn that the majority of the culling will take place at elevations in excess of 8,000 feet above sea level and that volunteers could be asked to hike up to 8 miles a day. The culls are being considered for dates between October and May, meaning that snow mobiles will likely be needed to access the Park’s North Rim as well as to remove bison meat. The program will require volunteers to give the heads and hides of the culled bison to Native American Tribes or the federal or state agencies. The NPS may allow volunteers to keep some of the meat from the cull and share the excess meat with the tribes.
On September 13, 2017, the House Committee on Natural Resources approved the Grand Canyon Bison Management Act as an amendment to the SHARE Act. Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ 4) introduced the bill that would allow each volunteer to remove up to one full bison harvested in accordance with the management plan.
While the NPS has agreed to conduct the program, it has not yet established methods for volunteers to apply to participate. SCI has reached out to Grand Canyon National Park in an effort to monitor the program going forward and to receive information that we can share with our members. We will alert all of our members when further news develops in the coming days and weeks. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our Washington, DC office at (202) 543-8733.