Wind Cave National Park: discussing lack of genetic diversity among bison
HOT SPRINGS, S.D. -Small federally managed herds are facing an issue which if not fixed, could lead to extinction. The issue at hand, a lack of genetic diversity.
The National Park Service and the Department of Interior teamed up to do a study on bison. The analysis showed that bison are becoming less genetically diverse.
The lack of diversity comes from interbreeding among the bison. This is happening because many of the organizations that fall under the Department of Interior isolate their herds, .meaning herds do not get to interact with each other.
“Some of the research that we found says that just swapping a few animals every 5 to 10 years would be enough to really help us conserve those genetics long term,” said Greg Schroeder, the chief of resources at Wind Cave National Park.
Right here in South Dakota, Wind Cave National Park has 350 – 500 bison, which is considered a small herd.
When the rutting season comes the same genetic traits continue to be passed down, causing some weaker genetic traits to disappear with each generation
This becomes dangerous because eventually, small herds may lose essential traits that keep them alive.
As of now the National Park Service and the Department of Interior are working on a solution where they can work with all organizations to ensure bison maintain their genetic diversity.
“What we’re really looking at now is to hopefully develop a plan on how we can better manage our bison across all of our landscapes for the next 200 plus years,” said Schroeder.