45,000 hunters apply for opportunity to shoot tame bison in national park
(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 open up a hunting season in the coming months for bison in the northern part of Grand Canyon National Park. The NPS this week conducted a lottery to select hunters to win the opportunity to shoot the bison in the fall and 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.
In a letter to Haaland sent late last week, Animal Wellness Action 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 conducted a lottery to select participants, will allow the lottery winners to enter the park with firearms, and 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 entirely at odds with the history of Grand Canyon National Park and all other national parks in the U.S.”
The United States, except just one park with an expressed 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 the 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.
“If the Park Service opens up Grand Canyon to hunting, it will set a precedent that the NRA and other trophy hunting will secure to exploit in other parks and monuments,” added Pacelle. “This plan is entirely at odds with the value system of the National Park Service.”
Reducing the small population of 400 – 600 bison can be achieved humanely, including with fertility control, if the agency feels the need to allow more human control of wildlife population dynamics in the park. The NPS has long used Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP), an immunocontraceptive vaccine, for the 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.
“Shooting bison accustomed to staying put as hundreds of thousands of people stare at them is not a hunt, but an execution,” warned Pacelle. “It’s about as sporting as shooting a parked car. Yet there are 45,000 trophy hunters who are seeking an opportunity to do this very thing in a crown jewel of America’s national parks.”
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.