National Park Service Entering ‘Bison Reduction’ Agreement with Arizona Game & Fish Commission

by Halle Ames

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission (AZGFD) made an agreement with the National Park Service (NPS) last Friday to reduce the number of bison present on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. 

In an attempt to disrupt the “refuge effect,” which allows bison herds to grow without any pressure, the plan is to implement different ways to reduce herds. Some of the plans include live capture and translocation, as well as hazing and lethal removal. 

The need for the reduction is due to the herd’s abundance, sanity, and expected growth. The NPS is concerned that they will strain the resources such as water, vegetation, soils, as well as archaeological sites. Officials are also concerned with the values such as visitor experience and wilderness character.

The plan is to reduce the number to under 200 to protect the ecosystem, park resources, and values. The herd reduction activities are conducted under a 2017 Environmental Assessment conducted by NPS and supported by the State of Arizona and the US Forest Service.

In 2019, the Grand Canyon National Park biologists and AZGFD staff began the process of capture and removal. Already, five American Indian Tribes have taken 88 bison through an agreement with the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council. The bison will join existing herds and be managed by the tribes. 

The number and timing of the bison removal will be examined yearly.

Skilled Volunteers Needed for Bison Reduction

Skilled volunteer hunters will aid in the lethal removal of the animals, but not until the fall of 2021. Both the organizations will select the qualified volunteers through a random selection process. “Selected volunteers will go through additional vetting by NPS, including a background check and a firearms proficiency test.”

There is also no fee for applying or participating in the process.

“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,” said AZGFD Chairman Kurt Davis.

“The Game and Fish Department will provide the volunteer with the necessary permit to possess and transport the carcass from Grand Canyon National Park. There will be no waste of game meat, and no waste of tax dollars to contract for paid sharpshooters.”

To apply or participate in the process, individuals should not call NPS or AZGFD. They will make an announcement in 2021 about recruitment.