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National Park Service says bison are shedding genetic DNA; scientists trying to improve population

Posted at 8:56 PM, Nov 04, 2019

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- At its peak centuries ago, more than 30,000,000 bison roamed the great plains from Colorado to the Appalachian mountains.

Now, Doctor Jennifer Barfield with the Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation Herd Project, has been fighting to maintain a healthy herd of bison for the last four years.

“We started with 10 animals, we are today at 77 animals," Barfield said.

Doctor Barfield says the threat of bison gradually shedding their genetic DNA can be stopped through several ways so they’ll be able to withstand disease and climate changes.

“One of the ways to combat genetic variation may be to move animals between herds, but another way would be to allow that herd to become larger and maybe to connect with other herds across the landscape," she said.

In the past, they’ve also used embryos as a way to carry on a pure bison bloodline.

The National Park Service says based on a genetic population analysis, three small federal herds could die off and their DNA lineage vanish all within 200 years if bison are limited to interbreeding with distant herds.

Still, Doctor Barfield says she’s not worried.

“I think we have a lot of people who are very motivated, who are making great strides and starting new herds, looking at places where herds can grow and expand."