Grand Canyon National Park officials want to kill hundreds of bison over five years, and they need volunteers to help.
The park’s bison population has grown to about 600 bison in the North Rim, according to the National Park Service. Officials are hoping to reduce that number to less than 200 by killing or relocating them.
“This action is necessary due to the rapid growth of the bison population and the transition from the herd using state and U.S. Forest Service lands into almost exclusively residing within Grand Canyon,” National Park Service officials said on its website. “Impacts from grazing and trampling on water, vegetation, soils, and archaeological sites, as well as on visitor experience and wilderness character also necessitate action.”
This year to reduce the population, park officials want volunteers to kill and remove the bison.
How does that work?
Volunteers would be part of a “lethal removal” process that’s a little different than a hunt. The animals are only killed for management purposes. It’s not a recreational hunt.
People need to apply to be a volunteer during the 48-hour window starting May 3 at midnight. Then people will be selected in one draw.
“The lottery … will send applicants to the park for provisional selection,” the National Park Service said. “Final selection will be contingent on meeting the volunteer qualification criteria.”
During the 2021 season, there will be four, five-day periods when volunteers will remove bison. Volunteers have to complete a training on the first day and can’t select which week they participate in.
People who are chosen are then responsible to gather three to five “support volunteers” to help them during the week. They can be family members or friends.
Volunteers also need their own camping equipment, firearms and non-lead ammunition.
The exact process of the lethal removal isn’t explained by the National Park Service, but the volunteers will be able to harvest some meat.
Who can volunteer?
Grand Canyon officials want the volunteers to be skilled and serious about the operation. Every volunteer is required to pass a firearms safety course and a marksmanship proficiency test.
“You must show that you can handle your rifle safely and follow directions from a range master,” the National Park Service said.
Volunteers also will need to haul bison carcasses, which can be very heavy. Bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. They will need to do this on foot.
Additionally, the volunteers must meet a number of other requirements, including:
Be a U.S. citizen 18 years or older
Providea photo I.D.
Prove they are physically fit
Pass a background check that shows no history of criminal or wildlife violations
Is there push back on this process?
Some activist groups think shooting and killing hundreds of bison isn’t humane or necessary.
Alicyn Gitlin of the Sierra Club told The Associated Press last year that she would rather the bison be removed from the area entirely.
“I’m very nervous about there being a perpetual dependency on this use of people having to go into the park and shoot,” she told the AP.
In 2017, The Humane Society of the United States said the plan was unneeded and unwarranted.
“If it happens, the NPS will not only be targeting the very symbol of the agency itself and our national mammal, but spilling their blood in or around yet one more jewel of our nation’s most beloved network of federal lands,” the group wrote.
The National Park Service said they are removing the bison to protect park resources and is the only way to reduce the population of the bison herd quickly.
“Individuals or groups who wish to express their opposition/concern may do so as part of the rights protected and guaranteed by the First Amendment,” the National Park Service said. “Those wishing to exercise their First Amendment rights should review the park website for information about permits.”