If you’re physically fit and a good shot, it may be time for a trip to Arizona. The National Park Service (NPS) is seeking hunters willing to help cull the Grand Canyon’s growing bison population amid concerns over environmental damage the animals are causing.
According to the Associated Press, roughly 600 bison currently reside in the region. If left uncontrolled, biologists say the population could reach 1,500 within the next 10 years. In the 1990s, the Grand Canyon bison herd—which has been managed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) in the House Rock Wildlife Area since 1929—began moving into the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, where hunting is prohibited. Over the last decade, the animals have been trampling vegetation, causing soil erosion and contaminating water sources.
“If you drive through here with your windows down, you can actually smell the bison,” Greg Holm, wildlife program manager for Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP), told KNAU Arizona Public Radio. “In a nutshell, we want to reduce the number of bison in the population as quickly as possible in the next 3 to 5 years to a level under 200 animals.”
While GCNP prohibits all hunting, supervisor for the AZGFD regional office in Flagstaff Craig McMullen told KNAU Arizona Public Radio that his agency wants to make an exception for bison due to the ecological impacts on the park.
“We think the least expensive, most efficient and most expedient way to get that population down in a hurry is through the use of licensed hunters," McMullen said.
While the details of the volunteer effort are still being finalized, most hunting is expected to occur between October and May, and hunters will be expected to possess a specific set of skills. Carl Lutch, wildlife manager for Game and Fish in Flagstaff said hunters will have to be capable of hiking 8 miles a day while carrying a 6-pound pack. They will also be required to hit a paper plate 200 yards away five times before qualifying.