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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Minnesota Fish and Wildlife is taking a stab to create a genetically pure herd of Bison in its Blue Mounds State Park................Their goal is to breed enough pure Bison so as to be able to transplant a percentage of them to other State Parks, thus bringing back another piece of the historic prairie fauna..............Guys, start thinking Wolves next, so that the ancient dance of predator and prey can once again play out in the "Land of a 1000 Lakes"

Minnesota project aims to preserve bison bloodline

By Maricella

Two bison on the prairie are reminders of what Minnesota prairielands must have once looked like. 
Inches from a human observer, bison graze the prairie as their tails whip at flies.
A bull sticks close to a cow, claiming her for the coming breeding season. New moms camouflage their calves while their yearlings nap in the tall, windblown grass.   The prairie looks untouched with its native Minnesota cactuses, bedrock and wallows of dirt. Some of the dusty mud depressions are thousands of years in the making.
This is life on the prairie, home to Minnesota's only public bison herd.
Nearly 100 bison roam a fenced area at Blue Mounds State Park in Luverne, about four hours from the Twin Cities in the southwest corner of the state.
State conservationists now want to use the herd to help build genetic diversity, creating healthier North American bison, and someday to bring the native giants to more state parks -- where experts say they once lived. This could make Minnesota pivotal in conserving an animal that was near extinction, said Craig Beckman, park manager at Blue Mounds.
"The overall purpose is to preserve and conserve the bison genetic line of the United States," Beckman said. "If we can achieve that in Minnesota, we can also achieve becoming a real player in bison conservation."   The Minnesota Zoo and the state Department of Natural Resources announced in July that they would partner to breed bison from federal herds with the state's herd.
The first bison could come this fall from Oklahoma and South Dakota.

The goal is to create a   "metapopulation" -- in which a group of animals is divided into smaller groups, depending on their genetics, and allowed to breed in hopes of a more diversified species.
In Minnesota, the state's herd would eventually grow to about 500 bison but would be managed as smaller groups at various state parks and the zoo, said Ed Quinn, natural resource program consultant for the DNR.
Why are bison genetics so important?   When the population crashed in the late 1880s, mostly because of hunting

A bison watches warily from its resting spot in the long prairie grasses at Blue Mounds State Park in Luverne, Minn.
and disease, fewer than 200 bison remained in the country, said Jim Derr, professor of genetics at Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine. He specializes in bison genetics.
A handful of ranchers saved the few remaining animals, Derr said. At the time, the ranchers experimented with breeding cattle with the bison -- which helped save the population but also permanently transformed bison genetics.
Today, nearly all of the country's bison are descendants of those animals, and most bison still carry a fraction -- less than 1 percent -- of cattle genes.     One of the goals of the new project is to rid the Blue Mounds herd of its foreign cattle lineage.   We want to "preserve the pure genetic line of the bison."

Park ranger Craig Beckman watches the herd gathered at one of the two Buffalo wallows at Blue Mounds State Park.

The Blue Mounds herd started in 1961 with two bulls and a cow on 50 acres of pasture. They  
had never been tested to determine their genetics before last year, when Minnesota Zoo staff helped park staff round up the animals to collect blood and hair samples.   The results showed the herd contained few cattle genes and was diverse enough to be starter stock for the metapopulation.
"We were very pleasantly surprised," Quinn said.   Of the 26 cows tested, only one of them had cattle genes. The goal is for the herd to eventually have no sign of cattle genes.

Part of the bison herd begins to move out to another part of the prairie at Blue Mounds State Park.
  Derr and his team are taking the next step in bison genetics by determining the species' DNA sequence for all of its genes. His department also will compare the results to historic samples collected in the late 1800s, during the population's decline.   The process will determine bison's genetic traits, Derr said. It also will help establish, once and for all, the differences between cattle and bison genes.   It's "pretty exciting stuff to get to work with," Derr said.

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