Bison to be removed from Grand Canyon’s north rim

Grand Canyon National Park and the Arizona Game and Fish Department have reached an agreement that will allow skilled volunteers to remove bison (Bison bison) from the northern rim of the park as part of a plan to reduce bison populations causing problems in the area. The plan also calls for hazing and gathering bison.

The bison herd found along the Grand Canyon’s north rim descended from bison introduced to the area in the early 1900s for ranching. The herd, currently around 600 individuals, is managed by the state of Arizona. The state opens a regulated hunting season, enabling hunters to pursue the animals when they are in the national forests and other lands outside of the national park.  However, the herd is often found within the national park — where hunting is legislatively prohibited — and park officials are concerned about increasing damage to water resources and vegetation the large ungulates cause. The park has previously implemented removal efforts, aimed at reaching its bison population goal of 200 individuals.

Over the past two years, managers have removed 88 bison from the area. After a roundup in late August and early September, 57 bison were transferred from the park to the InterTribal Buffalo Council, and then to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Kansas, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, the Santee Sioux Tribe in Nebraska and the Modoc Nation in Oklahoma. In 2019, 31 bison were relocated to the Quapaw Tribe in Oklahoma.

Management of the herd has been controversial in recent years, with the state and some lawmakers preferring hunters to be involved in the population reduction efforts. Park regulations will not permit hunting, leaving agreements with volunteer shooters as the closest alternative.

Volunteers selected for the effort will work with park employees to remove bison between next October and May, after showing their firearms proficiency and passing a federal background check. The National Park Service will determine the demographics of the bison to be removed, and volunteers will get to keep one carcass each. The number of animals removed will depend upon the number of volunteers involved. More details about the process and the requirements for volunteers will be released next year.

Header Image: Skilled volunteers with remove bison from the north rim of the Grand Canyon next year. Credit: David Welch