More than 45,000 people have applied for the chance to shoot and kill bison in Grand Canyon National Park, following a call out from park officials.
The bison, according to officials, are trampling on archaeological and other sites, and polluting the water in the North Rim of the canyon.
The rare call out for assistance from skilled shooters caught the attention of more than 45,000 applicants, who registered before a Tuesday deadline.
From that large pool of applicants, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) will select 25 for vetting and forwarding to the National Parks Service.
National Park officials will assess the individuals and select a final 12 to take part in the shooting of the bison in the Grand Canyon.
About 15 per cent, or 6,750 applicants, were from Arizona, and another third, or 14,850 applicants, were from Texas, California, Colorado and Utah, according to the AZFGD.
The final 12 will face difficult terrain and working conditions, with the shooting take place on foot at elevations of 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) or higher at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.
Volunteers are also required to retrieve the bison, weighing up to 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms), but without the assistance of motorised vehicles or stock animals.
Rich Dawley Jr. a 29-year-old farmer from Pennsylvania who applied, told the Associated Press: “Just keeping my fingers crossed that I’m one out of 12. You can’t win unless you play.”
An applicant from Nebraska, 27-year-old James Vasko, added: “I just thought it would be a cool experience. I’m an avid fisher, hunter. Going to Grand Canyon to hunt bison would be absolutely awesome.”
Although hunting in US national parks is prohibited, it is allowed for reducing the amount of animals that are degrading resources, or are classified as a risk to staff and visitors.
The National Parks Service says an estimated 400 to 600 bison at the North Rim — a non-native habitat — are degrading the area, and are aiming for a population of 200.
Wildlife experts are critical of the plan for the Grand Canyon, which could open up other National Parks to hunting.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press.