Conservation: Bison Make Small Comeback In Colorado
Millions of bison once roamed North America, though a mass slaughter in the 1800s killed off many of the wild animals. Since then, the large prairie-roaming relatives of cattle have been making scattered comebacks throughout the Great Plains. Recently, the animals have reestablished themselves in a small area of Colorado.
Bison are considered the largest terrestrial animals in North America. Male bison (bulls) can weigh up to 2,000 pounds, while females (cows) generally only weigh 1,000 pounds at most. The grazing animals are also herbivorous and prefer to feed on grasses and sedges.
Bison face three main challenges in terms of population growth: genetics, disease and habitat loss. Yellowstone bison represent the largest and most pure population that has not been bred with cattle. This means the individuals do not suffer from genetic mutations as a result of inbreeding, and they still exhibit wild behaviors like their ancient relatives. In fact, Yellowstone is the only place in the U.S. where bison have continuously lived since prehistoric times.
Thanks to conservationists, Native American tribes, government agencies and groups such as Defenders of Wildlife, a viable bison population was recently reintroduced to the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, which is a city-owned property near Fort Collins, Colorado. (Scroll to read more...)
This effort was made in part by the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department, Colorado State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and Larimer County Natural Resources Department. In total, the new heard consists of seven adult bison females, two yearling females and one bull calf, all of which are descendants of wild Yellowstone National Park bison.
The bison were released in a pasture roughly 1,000 acres in size. However, conservationists plan to more than double that size to accommodate more bison in the future.
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