Activists Challenge Sanctioned Culling of Bison in Grand Canyon National Park

by Jon D. B.

Sanctioned hunting by the U.S. Government of our national mammal continues to spark resistance with the latest selection of 12 bison hunters.

This September, the government’s lethal removal program is to take effect. The latest development in America’s bison management, however, holds staunch resistance from several environmental and animal rights organizations.

Specifically, it’s the Grand Canyon National Park bison hunt that brought the organizations forward. Together, They’ve penned a letter to the Dept. of the Interior (DOI) in opposition.

“Lethal removal of these animals will unfavorably alter the public’s perception of park management, and as result, potential tourists may decide to spend their time and money elsewhere, thereby curbing revenues in gateway communities and hurting the local economy,” the letter argues. “Surviving bison would be wary, and less likely to congregate near park visitors, degrading their wildlife-watching experiences.”

The organizations behind the letter are: Animal Wellness Action, Center for a Humane Economy, and Animal Wellness Foundation. Their argument centers around Grand Canyon being “natural bison territory.” As a result, they feel these native animals cannot be “invasive to the region.”

But the lethal removal program comes directly from the U.S. National Parks Service (NPS) alongside the DOI. Their aim is to reduce the bison population in Grand Canyon’s North Rim. The target is steep, with the project looking to cull this herd from 600 to below 200.

Originally, this number led activists to believe that 400 bison would be hunted and killed. According to The Hill, however, only twelve of the North Rim bison will be lethally removed. The remaining 388 will see capture and relocation.

Only 12 Bison to be Culled, Leaving 388 for Relocation

NPS officials cite on their Grand Canyon National Park website that the North Rim population has seen rapid growth. It is “in need” of drastic management in order to sustain ecological balance as a result.

Activists organizations disagree, however, citing in their letter that “Concerns about bison impacts on the land are [an exaggeration] and more a matter of aesthetics than ecology. These are large animals who gather in herds. Like any animal of its size, they will leave footprints on the land, consume forage and water.”

In addition, activists take issue with the hunting of bison. They cite it as reducing the species to a “trophy hunt” instead of a species in need of protection. A “sterilization vaccine” is there.

“If the Park Service ignores fertility treatment to manage herds and opts for lethal control, it will essentially obligate the agency to kill bison for years,” the groups continue.

As for the NPS’s method of culling, the service is partnering with the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to select hunters. Chairman Kurt Davis wrote in 2020 that “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.”

Davis further states that there will be “no waste of game meat… And no waste of tax dollars to contract for paid sharpshooters.”

In Spring of 2021, 45,000 hunters would apply to take part in the program.