GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. (AP) – Dozens of bison have been relocated from the Grand Canyon's North Rim and sent to Native American tribes in the Great Plains.
A recent two-week roundup led to the transfer of 57 bison to the InterTribal Buffalo Council, Grand Canyon National Park officials said.
The bison then were transported to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Kansas, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, the Santee Sioux Tribe in Nebraska and the Modoc Nation in Oklahoma, park officials said.
More than 30 bison were rounded up in a pilot program last year and sent to the Quapaw Tribe in Oklahoma.
The Grand Canyon bison are descendants of those introduced to northern Arizona in the early 1900s as part of a ranching operation to crossbreed them with cattle. They now roam almost exclusively in the far northern reaches of the Grand Canyon.
The park released a plan in 2017 to reduce the herd of about 400 to 600 bison to around 200. The plan calls for a mix of corralling the animals near the highway that leads to the Grand Canyon's North Rim, and for skilled volunteers to shoot a certain number of bison inside and outside the park.
Putting tracking devices on some of the animals allows biologists to track their migration patterns and better estimate the population.
The Grand Canyon plans to move forward with lethal options in 2021, but the details haven't been worked out, park spokeswoman Joelle Baird said Thursday. A handful of tribes have said they're interested in participating, she said.
Scott Poppenberger, a regional supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department based in Flagstaff, said the goal is to do it in the fall season. The effort has been stymied over disagreements over who exactly gets to participate in legally killing the animals and what happens with the meat.
“We've made a lot of progress toward effective communication, and we appreciate the park's commitment to work with us and achieve some meaningful reduction, and that's a welcome change,” Poppenberger said.
It's unclear if hunting the animals on state land outside the national park where it's allowed and the roundups have outpaced bison births over the past couple of years, he said.