Grand Canyon officials wanted a dozen skilled volunteers to kill bison within the park. They got tens of thousands of applicants.
More than 45,000 people from across the country applied to kill and remove bison from Grand Canyon National Park, park spokesperson Kait Thomas told McClatchy News.
“I just thought it would be a cool experience,” James Vasko, a 27-year-old from Omaha, Nebraska, told the Associated Press. “I’m an avid fisher, hunter. Going to the Grand Canyon to hunt bison would be absolutely awesome.”
Like Vasko, most applicants don’t live near the Grand Canyon. Only about 15% of the applicants are Arizona residents, Thomas said. More than 11% live in Texas, and about 9% are from California.
All 45,040 people applied with the Arizona Game and Fish Department during a 48-hour window. People were then selected in a lottery 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 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.
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, volunteers must meet a number of other requirements, including:
Be a U.S. citizen 18 years or older;
Provide a photo I.D.;
Prove they are physically fit;
Pass a background check that shows no history of criminal or wildlife violations.
The volunteers are part of a five-year plan to reduce the park’s bison population. The 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. “Impacts from grazing and trampling on water, vegetation, soils, and archaeological sites, as well as on visitor experience and wilderness character also necessitate action.”