Some bison would be shipped out of the area and others legally hunted on the adjacent forest. Within the Grand Canyon, hunters will be selected through a lottery to help bring the number of bison roaming the far northern reaches of the park to no more than 200 in the next three to five years.
About 600-700 of the animals now live in the region, and biologists say the number could hit 1,500 within ten years if left uncontrolled.
There are still some details to work out in the next few weeks, but the Park Service gave final approval to the bison reduction plan this month.
The Grand Canyon bison are descendants of those introduced to northern Arizona in the early 1900s as part of a ranching operation to crossbreed them with cattle. The state of Arizona now owns them and has an annual draw for tags on the Kaibab National Forest. Nearly 1,500 people applied for one of the 122 tags this year, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The bison have been moving into the Grand Canyon Park boundary in recent years, where open hunting is prohibited. Park officials say they are trampling on vegetation and spoiling scarce water resources.
The reduction plan would allow volunteers working on a team with a Park Services employee and possibly a tribal representative, to shoot bison using non-lead ammunition to project the endangered California Condors that feed on gut piles.
Hunters cannot harvest more than one bison in their lifetime through the state hunt, making the volunteer effort intriguing, they say.
“I would go if I had a chance to keep a portion of the meat,” said Travis McClendon, a hunter in Cottonwood. “It would definitely be worth going, especially with a group.”
Grand Canyon is working with state wildlife officials and the Intertribal Buffalo Council to craft guidelines for roundups and volunteer shooters, who will search for bison in the open, said Park Service spokesman Jeff Olson.
Much of the work will be done on foot in elevations of 8,000 feel or higher between October and May, when the road to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim is closed. Snowmobiles and sleds will be used to remove the bison meat—and helicopters in rare instances, park officials said. Bison are the largest mammal in North America. Males can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and stand six feet tall.
Carl Lutch, the terrestrial wildlife manager for Game and Fish in Flagstaff, AZ, said volunteers should be capable of hiking eight miles a day, in snow, and carrying a 60-pound pack. They also must be able to hit a paper plate from 200 yards five times.
Most indigenous Native American tribes regard the bison as a sacred animal and religious symbol, based on the creation stories of where the buffalo came from. Buffalo hides and heads were used in ceremonies, as well as to make tipi covers, utensils, weapons, shields, and sinew for sewing. Many Plains tribes used the bison skull for confessions and for blessing burial sites.
While the details haven’t been finalized, it appears the current plan is to give the head and the hide of the bison to tribes in the area. The meat is probably going to be split among volunteers, with each volunteer able to take the equivalent of meat from one full bison. Anything in excess would be given to tribes and charities. A full-grown bull can yield hundreds of pounds of meat.
- On May 9, 2016, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law, officially making the American bison the national mammal of the United States. This majestic animal joins the ranks of the bald eagle as the official symbol of our country.
- In prehistoric times, millions of bisons roamed North America, from Alaska to Mexico, to the eastern Appalachian Mountains. But in the late 1800s, the breed had been hunted nearly to extinction. Had it not been for a few private individuals working with the tribes, states and the Interior Department, the bison would be extinct today.
- Currently, 17 herds in 12 states--more than 10,000 bison--live on public lands managed by the Department of Interior.
- Yellowstone National Park is the only place in the U.S. where bison have continuously lived since prehistoric times. The herd there is estimated at 4,900, the largest group on public lands.
- Bison calves are called ‘red dogs’ because of their orange-red color.
- You can judge a bison’s mood by its tail. Hanging down is calm; if the tail is standing straight up, watch out! It may be ready to charge.
- Bison are not only big, they’re fast. They can run up to 35 miles per hour.
- The animals can live up to 20 years.
- Bison’s ancestors are from Asia. They made their way to America by crossing the ancient land bridge that once connected Asia with North America during the Pliocene Epoch, some 400,000 years ago.
- Bison are near-sighted. While bison have poor eyesight, they have excellent senses of smell and hearing. Cows and calves communicate using pig-like grunts, and bulls bellow during mating season.