This could be your chance to harvest a Grand Canyon bison. Today, Monday, May 3, through tomorrow, May 4, you can apply through the Arizona Game and Fish Department for a chance at the Grand Canyon’s first controlled bison hunt. Selected volunteers will help park officials reduce the burgeoning bison population by about 200 animals.
“Areas are really taking a hit,” said Alicyn Gitlin, the Grand Canyon program manager for the Sierra Club’s Arizona Chapter. “Twenty years ago, I remember going up to the North Rim and just being overwhelmed with the beauty of all these wildflowers and meadows and rare plants. When I went back around 2014, it was heartbreaking to me because everything looked like a cow pasture.”
This hunt is the second stage of a two-part management program established in 2017 after the National Park Service completed an environmental assessment. The program is geared toward decreasing the bison population by 200 animals in two ways: allowing “qualified individuals” to hunt the iconic ungulates and transferring bison to other parts of the country, according to the Arizona Republic.
As of 2019, 88 bison have been transferred to five Native American tribes, and as of last September, the NPS and AZGFD agreed on holding a controlled hunt at the North Rim. Currently, there are about 300 to 500 free-ranging bison that roam this area. They are considered descendants of Charles “Buffalo” Jones’ original 86 buffalo that were first introduced to the area 115 years ago, according to the NPS. However, since then, they’ve wreaked havoc across the North Rim, causing damage to water sources and vegetation as well as harming important archaeological sites.
For 2021, there will be four lethal removal operation periods that last five days each. Selected volunteers will be assigned an operational period to hunt in and must attend a training day on the first day. You are expected to participate in the full week. Operational periods are Sept. 20 to 24, Sept. 27 to Oct. 1, Oct. 18 to 22, and Oct. 25 to 29.
This initial “hunt” is considered a pilot program and will be run by Grand Canyon staff. During this first stage, only approved members of Arizona’s general removal volunteer program will be able to participate, although park officials do plan on holding a joint removal operation in 2022 with 11 tribes traditionally associated with the Grand Canyon that have requested a partnership role in managing bison within the park, according to the NPS. Many tribes consider the bison important, and tribal members use bison meat, hides, and other animal parts for traditional purposes.
Per the NPS, a qualified volunteer must meet the following criteria:
- Provide a pictured proof of identity (driver’s license, passport).
- Be a United States citizen.
- Be 18 years of age or older.
- Provide proof of successful completion of a firearms safety course (hunter safety course or similar).
- Be willing to haul bison carcasses out of wilderness on foot without motorized assistance.
- Utilize park-approved, non-lead ammunition and firearms.
- Agree to a firearm safety inspection by park staff prior to fieldwork.
- Actively participate in all training and safety briefings and follow Team Lead instructions.
- Have strong verbal communication skills.
- Sign up as an unpaid NPS volunteer (NPS VIP Program) for five days and participate in the full period.
- Sign a volunteer applicant affidavit of criminal history and lack revocable wildlife violation histories.
- Be able to pass, apply for, and purchase background checks that verify the lack of criminal and wildlife violation histories.
- Self-certify a high level of physical fitness.
- Provide own equipment, lodging, food, rifle (rifles must be at least .30 caliber with a bottlenecked cartridge), and non-lead ammunition (non-lead bullet that is at least 165 grains and is of a non-frangible design), and field dressing supplies.
- Have a firearm safety certification and pass a firearms proficiency test (3 of 5 shots in a 4-inch circle at 100 yards).
- Failure to successfully pass or agree to any of the listed requirements will eliminate an individual from further participation as a volunteer.
The application only requires a mailing address, phone number, and driver’s license number. It takes a few seconds to complete. Click HERE to apply.