Herds of bison first introduced to northern Arizona in the early 1900s have become unwelcome visitors at Grand Canyon National Park and park officials have begun talks on how the nudge the animals out of the area.
Federal and state officials on Wednesday announced three public hearings in southern Utah and Arizona over managing the herds of an estimated 350-450 bison and moving them into areas where they can be hunted on land outside the national park, according to The Associated Press
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"It's the first step in a long process today," said Grand Canyon superintendent Dave Uberuaga. "We're just trying to get it out there and get it on everybody's radar screens."
The AP reported that the bison have been grazing on pristine meadows, trampling vegetation, damaging cliff dwellings and polluting water sources since their arrival into Grand Canyon National Park.
Uberuaga said the bison have traveled into Mexican spotted owl habitat, knocked over walls at American Indian cliff dwellings below the North Rim, defecated in lakes and left ruts in wetlands. He said the bison can weigh as much as a ton and run three times faster than human beings.
The problems caused by the bison that have wandered into – and stayed – at the park have been brewing for some time. In 2010, officials openly began discussing what to do with the increasing herds. The Four Corners Free Press reported
in 2010 that bison herds had tripled in a decade.
"Mountain lions may be killing the young, but it's not appearing that there's much predation going on," Martha Hahn, Grand Canyon's chief of natural resources then told the Press. "They also in the winter hang out on the points (overlooking the canyon), because the snow gets melted off there, which is causing tremendous impact. … These are grasslands that weren't adapted to this kind of grazing."
The AP reported that the Bison were first brought to northern Arizona to crossbreed with cattle with the state's park service managing the herd on land outside of the park. Over the years, the bison migrated into the park and stayed in greater numbers annually.
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