Lawmakers Want Hunters Help to Thin Bison Herds at Grand Canyon

The North American bison — mistakenly called buffalo by early settlers — once reached numbers in excess of 500 million. While they symbolized American expansion they also represented wastefulness and disregard as the animals were nearly driven to extinction. By 1890, the total number of bison had declined to just 2,000.

Over many years of careful breeding and habitat protection in places such as Yellowstone National Park, bison ranks have swelled to about 500,000 today with half of those divided evenly between the United States and Canada. 

Today there are just too many bison in the areas where they roam to be sustainable, causing destruction to natural resources and depleting their limited range. During the winter, the Park Service removed 300 from Yellowstone through treaty and public hunting, but they still want to cull another 600 to 900 bison that migrate out of the park’s northern boundary. 

Those operations are currently ongoing, despite some controversy. The bison are being captured and killed, their meat and body parts donated to Native American tribes.

Now the Park Service is talking about thinning the herd at Grand Canyon National Park also, where swelling numbers of the giant animals are wrecking havoc to the natural environment. After the Park Service announced plans for a long-term strategy, lawmakers from Arizona have teamed up to propose legislation that would ask private hunters to help out. 

“We can’t afford to allow more devastation to be caused to the park while the Park Service twiddles their thumbs trying to come up with an expensive plan,” Rep. Paul Gosar, who is sponsoring a bill with Sen. John McCain, told the New York Times.  “We have a plan, and it puts Arizona hunters to work doing what they love, accomplishing this important task for free.”

Park officials say the 400 to 600 bison living on about 310 square miles is not sustainable and they need to reduce that number to less than 200.

Normally when hunters wish to relive the frontier days and take down a bison, they need to kill them on nearby Federal Forest Service land but those opportunities have diminished in Arizona as the animals spend more time within the park. 

If you are looking for other opportunities to hunt bison, South Dakota offers outstanding chances especially through guide services such as Brown’s Hunting Ranch.

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