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Arizona establishes bison "preserve"



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Just days after the federal government declared that the bison would become the first national mammal of the United States; Arizona has provided an update on its plan to establish a bison "preserve."  Based upon a 2015 agreement between the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, the U.S. Department of Interior, the National Park Service and the Wind Cave National Park (WCNP), a Plains Bison Conservation herd will be relocated to the Raymond Wildlife Area (RWA) east of Flagstaff, AZ by October 2017.

The herd is considered to have high genetic purity, genetic diversity and rare bison genes, which makes the animals perfect candidates for the national effort to conserve this type of bison lineage, according to the Grand Canyon News. Officials plan to eradicate the 45 bison already in the RWA through hunts managed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD); the bison already in the area do not have pure genetics and are actually more cattle than bison. Once the area is clear, AGFD plans to relocate 60 bison from the WCNP to the RWA.

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"What is special about the Wind Cave Bison is that this herd has remained pretty much genetically isolated," says Craig McMullen, regional supervisor of AGFD in Flagstaff. "It's a member of a strain of bison, one of very few, that's known to have some very valuable and rare allele (variant form of a gene) that hasn't been mixed with other strains. There are very few strains that have been known to be genetically pure."

AGFD officials anticipated opposition to the decision to eliminate the current RWA herd in favor of one with purer genes, but haven’t had any issues so far. According to the Grand Canyon News, the WCNP herd will be a balanced number of young males and females. AGFD believes that plenty of natural forage is available in the RWA without any supplemental feeding and the relocated herd should be fairly sustainable.

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