Bison herd will be thinned at Grand Canyon National Park

Officials say Bison in the Grand Canyon National Park are straining natural resources and will be thinned to reduce issues.

On September 1, the National Park Service (NPS) signed-off to reduce the population to fewer than 200 animals. They will use both lethal and non-lethal methods.

Estimates indicate that there are currently between 400 and 600 bison on the Kaibab Plateau located on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. In the 1990s, the bison herd, at the neighboring House Rock Wildlife Area (HRWA), began spending more time off HRWA and venturing to the Kaibab Plateau.

Bison have migrated from the House Rock Valley to the Kaibab Plateau. Credit: Google Maps

The migration raised concerns about the strain on resources, such as water, vegetation, soils, and archeological sites and the NPS feels it’s necessary to reduce the population.

Lethal Method

The lethal culling of the herd will happen annually between mid-October to mid-May when the north rim of the park is not accessible to the public.

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Teams consisting of an NPS employee, skilled volunteers, and tribal personnel will selectively shoot the animals. The meat will be distributed to the state, volunteers who participate, food banks and Indian tribes.

Non-Lethal Method

The NPS will install temporary corrals and use bait stations in combination with herding techniques to guide the bison towards the corrals. Once captured, they will transport the animals to “willing recipients,” including tribes, the state of Arizona and other federal agencies.

This will generally occur in the park between June and September.

Bison in the Little Park Meadow adjacent to the North Rim Entrance Road. Credit: National Park Service

How did the herd get there?

In the early 1800s, there were somewhere between 30 million and 50 million bisons roaming North America.  However, hunting reduced that population to almost 300 by 1900.

The populations did recover to about 20,000 by the 1940s and climbed to 300,000 by 2000.

The bison unique to the Kaibab plateau is believed to be decedents from an abandoned project in the early 1990s.  A rancher, known as “Buffalo Jones” reintroduced the bison to the region and cross-bred them with cattle.

Are Bison and Buffalo the same thing?

Although often referred to as buffalo, the American bison is not a buffalo. However, the name buffalo is in many dictionaries as an acceptable name for American buffalo or bison.

True buffalos are the water buffalo in Asia and the African buffalo.

The American bison is most closely related to the European bison.

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