National Park Service Searching for Volunteers for Grand Canyon Bison Culling

by Jon D. B.

Under an agreement reached last fall, the National Park Service is calling on volunteer hunters to assist in the Grand Canyon‘s newest method of bison removal.

Grand Canyon National Park biologists have been transporting bison from the park since 2019. In total, 88 live members of America’s National Mammal species were given to five Indigenous tribes. Each, so far, has come from the park’s North Rim. While this practice is set to continue, the NPS is in need of another, more expedient method of culling.

In an atypical move for the threatened species’ conservation, NPS is calling on volunteer hunters to help lethally remove bison from the Grand Canyon. Park officials cite their herd has grown beyond local capacity, and are trampling water resources as a result.

Moreover, indigenous vegetation and sensitive archaeological sites are at risk, reports KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius.

The bison hunt itself will take place later in 2021. As for volunteers, Grand Canyon officials will select “a dozen volunteers” by lottery. Selection will begin in September, and each participant will be subject to both background and marksmanship tests.

Passing across the board will allow volunteers the chance to hunt, provided they bring their own equipment. If all goes well, each individual hunter will be able to bring home one bison carcass for themselves.

A total limit on harvests per hunter, however, is unknown.

Grand Canyon National Park Set to Cull 600+ Bison Count

KNAU cites opposition, however, in the form of Sierra Club’s Alicyn Gitlin. Gitlin “worries the efforts are too little too late, and that non-lethal bison removal is more effective and humane.”

(Photo by Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Non-lethal bison removal will continue congruently this fall, one year after Grand Canyon and Arizona wildlife officials reached the decision to lethally cull a number of their 600+ bison. The topic has been a point of contention for “years.”

The Grand Canyon’s bison all descend from a crossbred herd, meaning their DNA is partially of domestic American cattle breeds. These hybrids originally came to the park’s North Rim in the early 20th century during ranching efforts.

One of the most striking and successful conservation efforts in American history alongside the bald eagle, North American bison have become prominent in areas like the Grand Canyon where they once roamed freely before European colonization.

NPS’s latest, lethal effort comes in response to claims that the bison‘s rehabilitation has been “too successful,” with many of the concerns listed above coming into play. As a result, Grand Canyon hopes to reduce their 600+ herd by about 200 individuals. At this time, both lethal and previous non-lethal methods will take part.