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Wildlife Biologists Concerned About Genetic Diversity of Wild Bison

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Evidence is mounting that wild North American bison are gradually shedding their genetic diversity across many of the isolated herds overseen by the federal government. Biologists fear that will weaken the bison’s future resilience against disease and climate events in the shadow of human encroachment.

Advances in genetics are bringing the concern in to sharper focus. Preliminary results of a genetic population analysis commissioned by the National Park Service show three small federal conservation herds would almost certainly die off within 200 years under current wildlife management techniques.

Officials say answers to protect genetic diversity may lie in the transfer of bison between unlike herds or initiatives to create larger herds across the west and midwestern states.

North America's bison squeezed through a genetic bottleneck of fewer than 1,000 animals in the late 1800s to their current populations which have rebounded in many areas of the American West.

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