A slew of wild baby bison have been born recently on the American Prairie Reserve in Montana. The total population of wild bison there is now 206. Bison were brought there as a part of the World Wildlife Funds’ bison reintroduction project. WWF collaborates with the American Prairie Foundation on the endeavor. They manage one of the largest conservation bison herds in the United States. They want to restore bison, and other species to the northern Great Plains. Earlier this year 96 wild bison were brought from a national park in Alberta, Canada. In 2005 there were only sixteen bison at the reserve. Since then through birthing new babies and acquiring wild adults, the herd has grown.
The herd in eastern Montana is genetically pure, meaning that none of the animals there are the result of bison-cattle breeding. They also are free of a disease called brucellosis, which is a concern to domestic cattle ranchers. A World Wildlife Fund Director for the area said of the bison restoration efforts, “The need to establish new, large herds to conserve the wild bison genome is extremely important.”
According to the American Prairie Foundation, although there are 500,000 bison in the US today, only about 7,000 of them are genetically pure bison. The majority are bison-cattle hybrids. Many of those are raised commercially for meat production.
The World Wildlife Fund and the American Prairie Foundation plan to continue growing the herd there and clear land of old barbed wire fencing. Currently the herd has a range of about 14,000 acres. You can learn more at the American Prairie Foundation site.