Volunteer hunters needed to kill bison at Grand Canyon National Park

It sounds like a bizarre request, but the U.S. National Park Service is looking for a dozen volunteers to kill bison as part of a plan to reduce the herd size of iconic species around one of the nation’s most recognizable landmarks.

Volunteers have 24 hours from May 3 to May 4 to submit their applications to participate in a herd reduction plan devised last year to cut down bison numbers along the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

Last fall, the NPS and the Arizona Game and Fish Commission signed a deal to reduce the herd size in the area to under 200 bison, by hazing, relocating and killing some animals.

Bison herd in Grand Canyon National Park. Photo: NPS

The herd, which initially numbered about 100 when brought to the House Rock Wildlife Area a century ago, had grown by 2014 to somewhere around 400 to 600 bison.

Experts figure the herd would jump to 800 in the next three years, and as high as 1,500 within the next 10 years without human intervention.

“Given the current distribution, abundance, density and the expected growth of the bison herd on the North Rim, the NPS is concerned about increased impacts on park resources such as water, vegetation, soils, archaeological sites and values such as visitor experience and wilderness character,” the NPS said in a statement this week

The hunt would take place this fall.

A bison herd grazes in the Grand Canyon National Park. Photo: NPS

Only 25 applicants will be selected to form the pool of skilled volunteers, which includes proven marksmanship, background checks and firearms safety certification. From that pool, 12 hunters will be chosen by random lottery.

“Selected skilled volunteers will be able to take up to a single bison including head, hide and meat in exchange for removing the carcass from the field. The Game and Fish Department will provide the volunteer with the necessary permit to possess and transport the carcass from Grand Canyon National Park,” Arizona Game and Fish Commission Chairman Kurt Davis said in a statement. “There will be no waste of game meat, and no waste of tax dollars to contract for paid sharpshooters.”

Bison congregate around a disturbed water source on the Kaibab Plateau. Photo: NPS

A cull isn’t the only way the herd is being slimmed down.

Biologists began a live capture and relocation effort in 2019. Since then, 88 animals have been moved to five American Indian Tribes through an agreement with the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council.

Those efforts will continue through this fall.

Researchers have also placed GPS collars on 25 bison to help with population estimates, migration patterns and keep track of locations.

Collared bison on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park caught on remote camera. Photo: NPS

Officials said progress has been made to thin the herd and protect the environment.

“Reducing the herd size will protect the park ecosystem, resources and values,” NPS added.

“This agreement, and the management of the North Rim bison herd, is important to the greater goal of responsible management of park resources and bison conservation,” Grand Canyon National Park Service Superintendent Ed Keable, said in a statement last fall.

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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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