The population of wild bison in North America, especially in Minnesota, had dwindled in the last two centuries due to hunting expeditions. Bison were only reintroduced in 1961 at the Blue Mounds State Park, and a genetic testing in 2013 showed that some of these bison were free from cross-breeding.

In an effort to conserve the population of genetically rare bison in the area, Minnesota's Natural Resources Department and the Minnesota Zoo have released a herd of 11 extremely rare bison into Minneopa State Park near Mankato. Three of the genetically rare bison were transferred from the Minnesota Zoo while eight were taken from the Blue Mounds State Park.

Kathy Dummer, regional manager of Minnesota's Natural Resources Department, said efforts were being made over the last four years to plan the conservation of these genetically rare bison.

She said that they were hoping for the population of the genetically rare bison to eventually grow to at least 40. Next spring, cows will be bred and calved, and a bull will be introduced into the state park.

Tony Fisher, Director of Animal Collections for the zoo, explained that without cattle DNA within a bison, its physical growth is lesser. Experts say that 30,000 bison out of 500,000 in North America contain this genetic purity.

Dummer meanwhile added that the Minneopa State Park's prairie landscape is large and spacious enough to support the small population of bison in the area. The state park is also nearby possible research partners and various educational institutions. Over 200,000 people live close as well.

Soon, the public will be permitted to drive vehicles within the range of the state park. The bison will probably take time adjusting to their new home.

The side of the state park designated as a campsite will be closed up until mid-October. The park office and the waterfalls area will remain open to the public.

In 2012, Minnesota's Natural Resources Department entered into an agreement with the Minnesota Zoo to expand and preserve the state's bison herd. It includes a plan to grow the current number of bison in Blue Mounds State Park to about 500 animals in a span of different locations.

Photo: Larry Smith | Flickr 

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