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Beefalo are Causing Chaos in the Grand Canyon

While their name is cutesy, the beefalo are actually menaces to their fellow Grand Canyon dwellers.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The beefalo, a cross between buffalo and domestic cattle, may surprise and delight with its novel nature but the fantastical animal is creating serious problems in the Grand Canyon.

Last April, the Christian Science Monitor first covered a herd of beefalo living in the Grand Canyon and causing chaos, reporting:

“The bison no longer look like cattle but still have about 10 percent cattle in their genes. 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, Dave Uberuaga, the superintendant of the Grand Canyon, said.”

Beefalo also are incredibly thirsty animals; one beefalo can drink 10 gallons of water during each trip to the watering hole, according to the BBC. With an estimated 600 beefalo, at least, wandering around the canyon’s North Rim, the herd can quickly drink scarce waterholes dry.

The beefalo’s selfishness is also costing other Grand Canyon dwellers. The BBC reports that animals, insects, and rare plants are getting pushed out of the picture, throwing the ecosystem out of balance.

Martha Hahn, science and natural resources manager at the Grand Canyon National Park, showed BBC reporters the damage done at Little Park Lake, one of the area’s most important water sources. "When we're looking at 200-300 bison using this one water source, they can drink it dry pretty quickly," she told BBC Radio 4's Costing the Earth program. "In terms of what could be here, 80 percent of our vegetation and other species rely on these very limited water sources. Lakes like this in the park and surrounding area —there are probably seven in total. "If they're depleted in terms of water those other species will be affected."

Solving the problem of beefalo hasn’t been easy so far and there aren’t many feasible solutions in the works either. The BBC reports that birth control has been ineffective in managing the soaring reproduction rates of the beefalo, according to Uberuaga. On one extreme, some propose allowing hunters to add beefalo to their list; however, many Native American groups are opposed to killing animals for sport. Other options have lethal and non-lethal consequences, including corralling, herding, or administering a different kind of contraceptive. If these methods are effective, it’s unclear where the surviving beefalo will go.

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