The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is home to a herd of buffalo. They are a non-native species, originally brought to the area by a cattle rancher who sought to breed them with common cattle to create a hybrid. Although the bison still has genetic traits from this experiment, you wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking at them. The rancher abandoned the project, and the herd eventually came under government management. This bison herd, known as the House Rock Valley herd, was originally only 100 head in the early 1900s and has grown over four times that size. Biologists are suggesting that the herd could grow to over 1500 individuals in the next decade.
The National Park Service has recently completed a review of the environmental impact of the herd and has determined, along with other federal and state management agencies, that the size of the herd should be reduced. The herd is currently 400 to 600 head, and they have recommended reducing the herd to 200 or less. According to the NPS, “Given the current distribution, abundance, density, and the expected growth of this herd, the NPS is concerned about increased impacts on park resources such as water, vegetation, soils, archaeological sites, and values such as visitor experience and wilderness character. Reducing the herd size will protect park resources and values.”
The herd will be reduced through both lethal and non-lethal means. Governmental agencies including the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Game and Fish Department and the InterTribal Buffalo Council are working together on the management plan. Part of that plan will involve a partnership with qualified private individuals to cull the herd over a three-year period. They will also be exploring other non-lethal methods to reduce the size of the herd, corralling and shipping some of them to other areas.