Grand Canyon Transforming into Game Farm for Hybrid Bison
“Skilled Volunteers” to “Lethally Remove” Marooned Cattalos on Parks North Rim
Washington, DC — Grand Canyon National Park is acting in partnership with the Arizona game agency to expand hunting of hybridized bison inside the park, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The plan, outlined in a new Park Service report, would permanently maintain a cattalo herd inside the park to provide big game opportunities both inside and outside the park.
The plan is contained in a new report entitled “Grand Canyon Bison Nativity, Genetics and Ecology: Looking Forward” and written by a small group of National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Forest Service and Arizona Game & Fish Department officials as a “consensus” product. While disclaiming that it represents official policy, it notes that it was written at “the request of NPS leadership.”
Overturning the longstanding position of Grand Canyon National Park, the report declares a bison herd introduced by a rancher in 1906 and now highly hybridized with cattle to be wildlife “native” to the park. This finding means that the herd cannot be removed in its entirety, but its numbers may be kept in check. It recommends cutting the current herd, now estimated as high as 600, down to 80 to 200 animals.
Currently, these cattalos may be hunted when they leave park boundaries but many animals have learned that they may safely congregate on a fragile portion of the park’s North Rim. Under the report’s plan, any animals in excess of the target remaining in the park would be “lethally removed” by “skilled volunteers” – as technically hunting is not allowed inside national parks. The report envisions between 150 and 320 animals being shot each year, depending upon the chosen “harvest ratio.”
“This plan would turn Grand Canyon into a game farm managed for the benefit of Arizona Game & Fish,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that “skilled volunteers” is just a euphemism for hunters who are selected by the park. “Slaughter should not become a routine park wildlife management strategy.”
In March, PEER filed a complaint stating that a predecessor report by the same lead author reaching the same conclusions failed to meet federal standards for accuracy, completeness and scientific quality. Rather than defend that earlier report, NPS withdrew it in May, promising a “superseding” report it has now unveiled.
The new report, like its predecessor, has little to do with science. Instead, its key finding is a legal, not scientific, conclusion that the NPS Management Policy on “exotic species” does not apply to this herd. The relevant policy defines as non-native “those species that occupy or could occupy park lands directly or indirectly as the result of deliberate or accidental human activities.” It is undisputed that this herd was intentionally brought to northern Arizona by humans as part of a commercial enterprise, and while exotic animals do not evolve into native wildlife by passage of time that is exactly what this report concludes.
The lead author of both reports, Glenn Plumb, is now Grand Canyon’s acting chief of science and resource management, putting him a position to implement the hunting scenario he has already endorsed.
“This report peddles the preposterous notion that possible ancient sightings of bison ‘occasionally as small dispersed herds’ somewhere in the region make this herd of imported highly-hybridized cattalos native to the park,” concluded Ruch, pointing out that the herd is doing great damage on the North Rim and urging that it be removed from Grand Canyon altogether. “The Park Service is engaged in an elaborate and expensive fiction that these animals are native wildlife in order justify a decision that has, by all appearances, already been made.”