Bison Populations Might Render the Grand Canyon Less Grand

Julie A. Barr, KLJ Staff Editor

Vacationers may soon be able to add beefalo hunting to their Grand Canyon National Park bucket list. These animals, a crossbreed of cattle and bison, have taken up residence in what has for years been a safe and protected home.  But recently, the large numbers of these animals have proven extremely detrimental to the land and other wildlife in the Park.[i] The deleterious impacts include overgrazing of the grass and overwhelming scarce and precious water sources.[ii] Some Native American groups have also reported that the animals have destroyed ancient ruins in the area.[iii] A lack of predators has allowed these animals to multiply in an area that is simply unable to accommodate them.[iv]

One of the answers to combatting this growing population of animals might be to allow people to hunt the animals inside this federally-protected area.[v] As the formal owner of the bison population in the state, Arizona issues the permits required in order to hunt the animals outside the Park.[vi] Inside the boundaries of the Park, however, the National Park Service (NPS) maintains control.[vii] NPS’s primary directive is to protect the particular ecosystem of each national park.[viii] Because of the beefalo population’s negative impact on the ecosystem, hunting these animals could be one of the best options in order to preserve the grandeur of the Grand Canyon.[ix]

There are plenty of people who oppose hunting these animals, however, including many Native American groups.[x] Hunting the beefalo is not the only available option, either.[xi] Less violent options include attempts to corral or enclose the population, or to somehow give the beefalo a form of contraception.[xii]

If the hunting option should prevail, shooting one of these coveted, 2000 pound animals will come at a high price. Arizona residents might pay over $1000, and non-residents could pay over $5000, just to shoot one bison.[xiii] And, lest vacationers think otherwise, hunting bison is far from an easy task – these animals can clock in at forty miles per hour.[xiv] An ultimate decision as to the best solution is still looming. [xv] So for now, hunters might not want to book a flight to the Grand Canyon until they know for certain whether they will get a


[i] Anne-Marie Bullock, How do you solve a problem like the ‘Beefalo’?, BBC News (March 1, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31661920

[ii] Laurel Morales, Grand Canyon Officials Want to Evict Bison From Park, NPR (May 27, 2014), http://www.npr.org/2014/05/27/316269168/grand-canyon-officials-want-to-evict-bison-from-park

[iii] Laura Clark, A Beefalo Invasion is Causing Trouble in the Grand Canyon, Smithsonian.com, (March 4, 2014), http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/beefalo-invasion-causing-trouble-grand-canyon-180954458/

[iv] Edmund DeMarche, Hunters seek entry to Grand Canyon National Park, where roaming buffalo cause havoc, Fox News, (March 8, 2015), http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/03/08/hunters-may-get-chance-at-bison-in-grand-canyon-national-park/

[v] Id.

[vi] Id.

[vii] Id.

[viii] Louis Russell, What Are the Parks For? Making Policy Explicit in the Park Service’s NEPA Decisions, 41 Ecology L.Q. 521, 525 (2014).

[ix] Supra note 2.

[x] Supra note 3.

[xi] Supra note 1.

[xii] Supra note 1.

[xiii] Supra note 4.

[xiv] Supra note 2.

[xv] Supra note 1.