Beefalo Are Destroying the Grand Canyon

Bison hybrids run amok

Arizona Game and Fish would like to reduce the number of beefalo in the Grand Canyon area from 450 to 100. (Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A herd of up to 450 bison hybrids is causing a ruckus in Grand Canyon National Park and surrounding areas. First introduced in the early 1900s, the cattle-bison mix were part of a failed experiment to create a hardier breed of livestock. Beefalo, also called cattalo, now run wild in the Grand Canyon, destroying historical sites and contaminating natural habitats at a rate that can no longer be ignored, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Weighing as much as 2,000 pounds, the hybrid bison are genetically only 10 percent cattle. Unlike the bison found in Yellowstone, they balk at human interaction due to a history of hunting. Grand Canyon Superintendent Dave Uberuaga tells the AP, “The massive animals have reduced vegetation in meadows to nubs, 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.”

Possible management plans include moving the beefalo off national park territory so that they can be legally hunted by individuals, who pay up to $1,100 to shoot a bull off park land. Typically only 20 permits are issued per season, but that number may increase as the Arizona Game and Fish Department would like to return the population to a meager 100.

National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service officials do not anticipate executing a management plan until 2016.

Read more on bison and the battle over public lands. 

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Lead Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto