45,000 hunters participate in lottery to shoot tame bison used to tourists photographing them every day
(Washington, D.C.) – Animal Wellness Action and partner organizations called on Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to halt plans for the National Park Service (NPS) to allow trophy hunters to kill human-habituated bison in the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park, a plan that subverts a 100-year precedent of forbidding sport hunting in our national parks and monuments.
Animal Wellness Action (AWA) also applauded Congressman Joe Neguse, D-Colorado, the chairman of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, for sending a letter today with a bipartisan group of lawmakers making the same request.
In cooperation with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the NPS conducted a lottery to select hunters to win the opportunity to shoot the bison and to leave with the carcasses and trophies of the animals. There were 45,000 applicants, demonstrating that would-be participants believe this is a rare opportunity to shoot a bison in a national park and collect a trophy.
Several months ago, in a letter to Secretary Haaland, AWA president Wayne Pacelle asked Secretary Haaland to “terminate a thinly disguised public trophy hunting program within Grand Canyon National Park.”
“The National Park Service may euphemistically call this action ‘a cull,’ but the agency has participated in a lottery to select participants, will allow the winners to enter the park with firearms, authorize them to gun down bison, and leave with the carcass and trophy,” added Pacelle. “This has every imaginable feature of a bison hunt, and that’s a pattern of behavior you just don’t see in America’s national parks.”
Today, Neguse and four other lawmakers wrote to Secretary Haaland and and a senior NPS official and urged them to call off the plan to kill bison. “We would encourage you to not move forward with the lethal removal scheduled for next week and revisit alternative methods that can be used to manage the population within the park boundaries,” wrote Congressman Neguse, along with Madeleine Dean, D-Penn., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.
The United States, except just one park given congressional authorization for hunting of a single species, has long forbidden trophy hunting of animals in national parks. The same is true for national monuments. Not even in Yellowstone National Park, where the treatment of bison by multiple state and federal agencies has come under intense scrutiny, is the NPS allowing hunters to kill bison within the boundaries of the park.
There is no hunting of elk, deer, and other native wild animals in Grand Canyon. There are already vast areas of northern Arizona managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the state of Arizona that allow sport hunting. Even when the NPS in the 1970s and 1980s viewed populations of burros at Grand Canyon as a management problem and as non-native animals, it eventually allowed animal-protection groups to conduct a large-scale capture and translocation program.
“AWA disputes that the small population of 300 – 400 bison in a 1.2-million-acre park does anything adverse to the landscape, but even if they did, population reduction can be readily achieved through fertility control or relocation,” added Pacelle.
The NPS has long used Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP), a contraceptive vaccine, for management of free-roaming equids and deer. In fact, that strategy has proven effective for an island population of bison at Catalina Island National Park.
This week, in a column in the New York Times, Arizonan and former White House senior speechwriter Matthew Scully urged Haaland to call off the hunt. “Outside the world of blood sport and the game-management bureaucracy, it should rightly strike most people as an appalling betrayal of trust in a national park where hunting is prohibited,” wrote Scully.
Bison species have, since the Pleistocene, ranged from Yukon and Alaska to the Valley of Mexico. The bison occupies an outsized place within the annals of the National Park Service as well, and it is prominently featured on the logo of the agency.
In recent weeks, more than 45,000 supporters of AWA attempted to contact Secretary Haaland to urge her to cancel the hunt.