45,000 Hunters Apply to Harvest a Dozen Bison at Grand Canyon National Park

by Will Shepard

Recently, the National Park Service decided to allow hunters to take a small number of Bison from Grand Canyon National Park. The number that they ultimately decided on was 12.

According to the National Park Service, in the first 48 hours that the permits went on sale, 45,000 people signed up. There are also between 400 to 600 bison currently in Grand Canyon National Park. But, the draw of hunting in the National Park is understandably exciting for thousands of people.

Nonetheless, of the 45,000 people that applied for permits to hunt bison, only 25 will be selected. But from that 25, only 12 will get to go roam the Park to harvest one bison each. These lottery drawings will take place on May 17.

What to Know About the Bison Hunt in Grand Canyon National Park

The Park Service decided to conduct the hunt because it is concerned with the number of bison in the North Rim area of the Park. Park Service employees have mentioned that the herd has impacted the natural area tremendously.

The animals have already impacted the water, vegetation, soils, and archaeological sites in the Grand Canyon. So, the park service said that “reducing the herd size will protect the park ecosystem, resources, and values.”

A study in 2002 concluded that bison have been around the Grand Canyon over the past 11,000 years. This means that the animal “can be considered ‘native’ to the park.” However, the study also noted that “If bison were present in the Southwest, as the evidence suggests, they likely entered the region only occasionally as small, dispersed herds.”

In the early 1900s, roughly 100 bison were brought into Grand Canyon National Park. Now, though, there are between 400 and 600 animals in the herd. It is expected that the herd will grow to nearly 800 individuals in three years. And, if no action is taken, the herd will grow to 1,200 to 1,500 in 10 years.

Each hunter will coordinate their hunt through the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The hunters will have to go out on foot and have one week to get an animal. Additionally, because of the location of the bison in the Grand Canyon, the hunt will mostly take place above 8,000 feet in elevation. So, there is a good chance of cold weather – specifically, it could snow.

Moreover, the hunters will not be allowed any motorized assistance to remove a killed animal. However, they will be allowed to take a crew with them to help them with the field dressings. Needless to say, it will be an incredibly challenging excursion.

Reducing the Herd Size Is Paramount to Protect the National Park

The National Park Service has said that they want to significantly reduce the number of bison by 2025. Some of the bison will be captured and transferred to Native American tribes. A select amount will be killed by hunters in lottery drawings like this one.

Last September, Grand Canyon wildlife managers captured and relocated 57 bison. These animals were taken to the Intertribal Buffalo Council. From there, they were given out to various tribes around America. The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Kansas, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, and the Santee Sioux Tribe in Nebraska each received some bison.