Thousands Sign Petition to Stop Grand Canyon Bison Hunt Lottery After 45,000 Volunteer

Thousands of people have signed a petition to oppose the planned killing of bison in the Grand Canyon National Park.

Last month the U.S. National Park Service and Arizona Game and Fish Department announced it was looking for "skilled volunteers" to take part in the removal of bison from the North Rim area of the Grand Canyon park.

The lethal removal is due to start in the fall of this year. The NPS said the park is aiming to reduce the number of bison in the area to less than 200 by 2025, citing concerns about the bisons' impact on park resources.

However, the plans have faced criticism and indigenous organization The Sioux Chef launched a petition a week ago to counter the cull. At the time of writing it has gathered more than 7,600 signatures.

The petition reads: "In the 1850s the U.S. government killed millions of these animals as a means of weakening indigenous communities across the west to ensure a campaign to take over their lands.

"There are better solutions than the thoughtless slaughter of so many animals."

The petition also states that "slaughtering this many bison without proper tribal consideration is wrong." The NPS said its effort to reduce the bison population is "supported via consultation with the public and traditionally-associated Tribes."

It added that a live capture and relocation program was piloted in 2019 and that 88 animals have so far been relocated to five American Indian Tribes.

Plans for lethal culling and relocation were set out in a Trump-era environmental assessment in 2017. In a statement, the NPS said it was concerned about the House Rock bison herd's impact "on park resources such as water, vegetation, soils, archaeological sites" as well as visitor experience. It claimed reducing the size of the herd would protect resources.

At the time the service said the House Rock bison herd had grown from around 100 in the early 1900s to between 400 and 600, and that this could increase to between 1,200 and 1,500 within 10 years.

The response to the NPS request for hunting volunteers has been significant. Applications opened on May 3 and closed two days later, by which time more than 45,000 people had applied, according to the BBC.

The service has said it will only choose 12 participants to become a "skilled volunteer". These will be selected from a chosen pool of 25 using a random lottery system.

Criticism of the planned bison killings has also come from animal rights group PETA. Elisa Allen, PETA director, told EuroNews that lethal population control "only causes animal populations to rebound when the loss of herd members results in a spike in the food supply."

Allen added: "Adding to this cruel, pointless fiasco is the fact that it can be difficult for hunters to get a clear show, causing the animals to endure violent, slow, painful deaths."

Bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and run at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. There were once tens of millions in North America, and today there are estimated to be around 20,500 plains bison left.

The World Wildlife Fund lists bison as "near threatened" and states that no other species on Earth declined so quickly as bison once did.

A stock image shows a bison standing in Badlands National Park, U.S. The NPS plans to start lethal population control methods. Jason_Ray_Photography/Getty