The recent birth of a very rare white bison (Bison bison) is a landmark in the recovery of the species. With a few caveats the recovery of the powerful symbol of the American west is one of the great conservation success stories.
Most people probably know that bison once ranged the Great Plains and numbered in the millions. They were the cornerstone of the lifestyle of the plains dwelling. Native Americans. Fewer may remember that they once inhabited more of the nation. Buffalo roamed as far east as Pennsylvania in frontier times.
Warfare, hunting, urban and industrial expansion and greed took their toll. however. By 1890 the number remaining was in the low thousands. These few lived in small groups in hidden pockets and avoided slaughter. The bison had some friends and zoos, native tribes and other wildlife enthusiasts brought the slaughter to a halt.
The numbers of bison slowly increased. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are about 500,000 today. Of these about 20,000 live a free and natural roaming life style in herds. Of these 5,000 are in Yellowstone Park. More than 400,000 are held in private herds. Native Americans, ranchers, conservationists and state, federal and local governments cooperate to maintain the herds.
The rare white bison baby was born May 16 at Bear River State Park. The calf was born to a mother who is also white. The park service said that the baby is a rare white buffalo and not an albino buffalo.
Native Americans believe a rare white b is the most sacred living thing on Earth and its birth is and answer to prayers and the sign of coming fulfillment of prophecy.
Bison numbers are expanding so the herds have to be hunted from time to time. Stakeholders deliberate about the culling and a limited number of hunting licenses are issued. Bison can carry brucellosis, a deadly disease to cattle, and controls must be placed to prevent spread. According to the CDC the disease is caused by a bacteria and can be transmitted by breathing in the bacteria.
Another issues is cattle genetics. Bison were cross-bred with cattle in the 19th Century and many of today’s bison have cattle genetics. The white calf has a “very small” amount of cattle genes, according to news reports. Keeping bloodlines pure is now a major goal of bison conservation.