Grand Canyon National Park sending bison to Native American lands

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GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK — Fifty-eight Kaibab Plateau bison are bound for tribal-managed herds on the Great Plains.

The National Park Service, with federal and state partners, gathered the animals from the forests and meadows near the Grand Canyon’s North Rim last week in an effort to control a herd that might otherwise damage park resources. Officials handed off the animals to the InterTribal Buffalo Council for transport to Native American lands in Oklahoma and South Dakota.

The bison, originally a captive herd from nearby House Rock Valley, have taken up residence in the relatively safe confines of a national park where hunting is prohibited and predators such as wolves are absent.

About a dozen years ago, the herd settled in and stopped migrating back to House Rock’s lower ground in winter. Park biologists say their numbers can grow by 20% a year, potentially damaging the landscape and trampling archaeological sites below the rim, where they winter.

Danielle Buttke (National Park Service veterinarian) on the catwalk above a bison in a holding pen, Sept.  8, 2022, in the corral near Lindbergh Hill at the Grand Canyon North Rim, Arizona.  The bull was deemed too large to be transported.

“In national parks, while we have amazing, beautiful spaces, we have limited space,” Park Service veterinarian Danielle Buttke said. She was inspecting bison to ensure they were healthy enough for the interstate trailer trip. “What we need to do as wildlife managers is make sure that those populations don’t get so large that there isn’t any food left for the remaining animals, whether it’s bison or elk or other species.”



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