In order for bison to look bad, you need a formulation that takes a lot of work. If one tries to give a buffalo hunt a scientific sounding rationale, the creatures’ natural behaviors sound the alarm on “the potential for increasing impacts” on the park’s resources, “the potential for erosion. “,” Soil disturbance “,” potential concerns about changes to local hydrology “,” potential damage “to archaeological sites, and so on.
Is one of these terrible developments really so serious that it justifies the slaughter of bison? No. And if the concern is to control the bison population in the park, there are other ways to do that besides killing them.
Yet in the assessment of herd reduction, movement of the whole herd, fertility control and other non-lethal alternatives are dismissed as impractical or not considered, although some bison in the recent past were captured and moved anyway, in coordination with Native American tribes, leaving one to wonder: why couldn’t they all be moved to a place where they wouldn’t be harassed or shot? Or why not control the herd with the PZP contraceptive vaccine, administered by snipers aiming darts at females, which has contained bison elsewhere?
A more hysterical version of the case coined by the Park Service comes from Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, a lawmaker in all of this. Troubled by the fact that the bison were “wreaking havoc”, causing “havoc”, threatening nothing less than “the wonder that is the Grand Canyon,” Mr. Gosar called on the government to “hold hunters to account” – and they were, in a 2019 law that allows the Home Secretary to use “trained volunteers” to “reduce the size of a population of wild animals” in a national park.
Hunters are already licensed under a corresponding Arizona Game and Fish Department program, which not only allows slaughter in areas near the park, but also offers technical training. In recent years, hundreds of bison near the park have been killed by hunters. The spirit of the program can be seen in a “buffalo hunter package” that the state provides to participants. The trick, the packet explains, is to be on the lookout near water points and shoot them when they are thirsty and make sure they don’t “fold up for safety” in the water. Grand Canyon National Park.
This tacky affair explains why bison have congregated in the park for longer periods of time, adding to the impacts that disrupt park service. The creatures are smart enough to realize that leaving the park means danger. In this case, wildlife management might try to solve problems on its own initiative. And to make credible the Park Service’s argument that this is not a “hunt” but simply a supervised “lethal kidnapping”, the last thing he should have done was solicit nominations from “Skilled volunteers” which no doubt included trophy hunters.
An agency whose very logo features a bison, in accordance with its protective mission, should have found another path. The National Park Service is overseen by the Home Office, and we can hope that Secretary Deb Haaland (who, like her reported on Twitter, recently delighted to see bison in the wild) will see the cold, artificial design of the plan and cancel the hunt. He represents the worst elements of Interior Ministry policy in the four years leading up to his arrival.