AFP/ Los Angeles
More than 45,000 people have volunteered to kill 12 bison in the Grand Canyon National Park, as part of a new programme to manage the growing population of the animals, the National Park Service (NPS) said on Friday.
If their numbers grow too high, buffalo can damage park ecosystems such as vegetation and soil, NPS spokeswoman Kaitlyn Thomas told AFP.
Thomas said there was growing concern about “increased impacts on park resources such as water, vegetation, soils, archaeological sites and values such as visitor experience and wilderness character”.
To protect the land, officials at the Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) in Arizona came up with the idea of opening up the process – known as “lethal removal” – to volunteers from the public.
They received over 45,000 applications in just two days, and selected an initial group of 25 names by drawing lots.
These will be vetted to make sure that they meet the standards of marksmanship and physical fitness required to carry out the cull, and the final 12 will be selected by May 17.
All volunteers must be US citizens and have their own hunting rifle.
Each person will be authorised to kill one bison each, and will not be allowed to use a motor vehicle to get about in the area of the cull, which is off-limits to cars.
The carcasses will be shared out among volunteers and “any parts not desired by volunteers will be transferred to the Tribal governments of GCNP’s 11 traditionally associated tribes”, the spokeswoman said.
“We expected a high number,” said Thomas. “There was considerable interest when the lethal removal programme was announced.”
The “lethal removal” is not exactly a hunt, the park service explained, because it is controlled by the park authorities themselves, and serves public as well as recreational interests.
Since 2019 the park has also been capturing excess bison and transferring them to other areas.
Between 400 and 600 bison live in the northern part of the park.
Within 10 years, the population is expected to triple to some 1,500 animals.
It is the first time such a programme has been run in this particular park, Thomas said, although similar volunteer cull programmes have been carried out in other national parks to prevent overpopulation by elk and goats.
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