PHOENIX – The first controlled bison hunt in Grand Canyon National Park is slated to take place this fall, and the park is looking for candidates to help in its efforts to reduce the area’s bison population by 200.
The Arizona Gambling and Fishing Commission and the National Park Service announced the dates and application process on Tuesday, paving the way for “qualified volunteers” with excellent marksmanship. But the initiative is causing some experts to fear that hunting will soon become more common in national parks.
The 300 to 500 free-roaming bison on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon are the descendants of 86 buffaloes brought to the area 115 years ago by breeder Charles “Buffalo” Jones, according to the National Park Service. And non-native animals have long been a nuisance in the region.
Over time, the expanding herd damaged water sources, trampled vegetation, and damaged archaeological sites.
“The regions are really taking a hit,” said Alicyn Gitlin, Grand Canyon program manager for the Arizona section of the Sierra Club.
“Twenty years ago, I remember going to the North Shore and being overwhelmed by the beauty of all these wildflowers, meadows and rare plants,” said Gitlin. “When I went back to 2014 it was heartbreaking for me because it all looked like cow pasture.
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Hunting in a national park? Some are ‘worried that this will become a normal thing’
The fatal bison removal from the Grand Canyon has been a point of contention for years between the park and Arizona wildlife officials.
In 2017, the National Park Service conducted an environmental assessment with the goal of reducing the bison population to 200 animals using two methods: lethal elimination, which allows skilled individuals to hunt bison, and transfer of bison. live animals to other parts of the United States. .
Since 2019, 88 bison have been transferred to five Native American tribes through a partnership with the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, which represents 69 tribes in 19 states.
In September 2020, the park service and Arizona Game and Fish agreed to a plan to hold a controlled hunt on the North Rim.
And while the move could bring several ecological and cosmetic benefits to the park, some experts fear the initiative will open the floodgates to more flushing in national parks later.
This is the main concern for Gitlin, who said she “worries it will become a normal thing.”
She said she wished the park had led with a greater effort to humanely round up and transport the animals – a process similar to partnering with Native American tribes – before resorting to volunteer hunters.
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How will the Grand Canyon bison hunt work?
Qualified hunters who meet the requirements can apply online in early May. A pool of 25 qualified candidates will be selected. From that pool, 12 people will be chosen by lot to participate in the hunt, according to a press release from the park.
The goal is to reduce the herd by 200 animals. The hunter must be able to transport the carcass without motorized assistance.
The hunt will run for five weeks in the fall from September 20 to October 29, although each volunteer hunter is only eligible for one week.
According to a press release from the park, applicants must meet these criteria:
- Be a U.S. citizen 18 years of age or older with valid photo ID.
- Be able to pay and pass a background investigation and not have any criminal or wildlife offenses.
- Self-certify a high level of physical fitness.
- Have a firearms safety certification and pass a marksmanship test (three of five shots in a 4 inch circle at 100 yards).
- Provide their own equipment, firearm, accommodation, food and dressing materials.
- Be available for the duration of the hunting period assigned to him. Individuals cannot participate in more than one period.
- Complete any additional requirements listed on the NPS Bison Reduction FAQ page as well as https://www.azbisonstewards.com when the application period opens.
How to apply for the buffalo hunt
The online application portal will be open for 48 hours. Qualified hunters can apply at https://www.azbisonstewards.com May 3-4.
Follow journalist Shanti Lerner on Twitter: @ShantiLerner
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