Park service plans to reduce Grand Canyon bison population

Updated May 14, 2017 - 10:17 pm

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The National Park Service has announced plans to reduce the number of bison found near the Grand Canyon’s North Rim through lethal and nonlethal means.

The park service has released a draft plan which outlines the nonlethal capture and removal of bison as well as lethal culling by trained volunteers, the Arizona Daily Sun reported. The goal is to bring Grand Canyon bison numbers from 400 to 600 to fewer than 200 over the following three to five years.

Actions could start as soon as this summer, according to the plan.

The North Rim is scheduled to open to the public Monday.

Bison were brought to northern Arizona in 1906. Today, bison have overgrazed the area and harmed soils and local water sources, officials said. The animals also pose a risk to archaeological sites.

If the population is not contained, bison numbers could grow to 800 in three years and between 1,200 to 1,500 bison in ten years, according to the report.

The park service plans to have a team of skilled volunteers that will shoot the bison. The team will also be responsible for assisting with carcass processing and removal. Salvageable meat will be divided between volunteers, food banks and designated tribal members.

Lethal culling would take place from mid-October to mid-May, according to the proposal.

The bison that will be relocated would go to tribes, the state of Arizona, other federal agencies and non-governmental organizations. A group of bison may be sent to the House Rock Wildlife Area north of the canyon.

The National Park Service is accepting public comment on the issue through June 7. It will also hold an open house meeting in Flagstaff on May 16.

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