Agreement Will Establish Protected Bison Herd in Arizona

A bison herd on the Kaibab National Forest. | Gaelyn Olmstead

Arizona and federal officials have agreed to a plan that will establish an "ecologically and genetically restored" herd of bison in Northern Arizona.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department recently signed a memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Department of Interior and the National Park Service. Also participating was Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, which will provide the bison for the herd, Game and Fish announced.

The new herd, at Raymond Wildlife Area, will replace an existing bison herd by fall 2017, the department said. The existing herd is one of two managed by Game and Fish; the other is at House Rock, east of the Kaibab Plateau. But both of those herds descend from an unsuccessful cross-breeding effort with cattle more than a century ago, and the bison contain high levels of cattle DNA.

The Wind Cave bison are among those hoped to be conserved for their "high genetic purity, genetic diversity and rare bison genes," Game and Fish said. It's also hoped that establishing this new herd will contribute to the species' recovery after it was nearly wiped out.

Game and Fish will carefully manage the new herd to allow for viewing opportunities, habitat management and public hunts, the department said.

You can sometimes spot some of Arizona's existing bison along State Route 67, which leads to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.


First of all, how does one restore the genetics to these hybrids? Bison were never on the Kaibab Plateau, or House Rock, naturally so even a pure breed doesn't belong here. These hybrids are destroying meadows, waterholes and archaeology sites. They do not belong!!!! PS: Would have been nice if you had contacted me to use my photo.

who cares about your pure DNA photo?

I'm pretty sure that the existing herds will be slaughtered and replaced by genetically pure bison from the Dakotas.

This is great! I applaud AZ F&G for their leadership and willingness to establish a genetically pure bison herd. Replacing a bison/bovine hybrid herd is an important step in bison conservation. I know Yellowstone NP also has a surplus of genetically pure bison, however, the herd there has a disease problem with brucellosis. USDA/APHIS has developed a protocol that would provide brucellosis-free bison, but it is a long, expensive and controversial issue in the Yellowstone area. Because of that, excess bison in the Yellowstone area are usually shipped to slaughter rather than to conservation herds. What a pity.

Your article fails to mention what happens to the existing herd that is being replaced? Slaughter? If the new herd will help with recovery after almost being wiped out, why would public hunts even be considered? Why does man feel the need to manage everything...leave them be. The reason they were almost extinct was because of man and his hunting and carelessness of our natural resources.

I too would like to know whats going to happen with the existing herd. Are they going to auction off tags for them, or do a special game draw? how do I get a tag?

They need to be managed because humans are here and we aren't going anywhere. The exiting herd will likely be harvested by hunters and the meat utilized for food. "Slaughtered" would indicate that they would be shot and left to rot. Only the federal government and those like Barbera Boxer do things like that, not hunters. The Arizona Game and Fish Department is the premier wildlife agency in the U.S. and if you would like to go down the list of their accomplishments, you could start with the Black Footed Ferret or the Desert Tortoise. You should take some time and read the North American Model for Wildlife management. It would give you a better understanding of what solid wildlife management truly is and why our model has been adopted all over the world with fantastic success.

existing does not equal exiting

existing does not equal exiting. Hope it was not I who used the term. If so, I stand corrected. Elk are prolific and certainly good eating; they should be prayed to before killing them, however. It takes a strong heart to kill something so magnificent.

let hunters hunt them like deer and take animal home and have it butchered and the meat go to the hunters family . much better than just shooting themn and leaving to rot the thing is the animals in this herd cant be allowed to procreate with the gentically pure herd to be located there or youre gonna have the same problem you got now. you could shoot them have them butchered and th meat distributed by food providers for low income people . let the hunter take a few packages for their trouble but the majoirty going to food providers for the low income people to distribute it those in need

Shooting a bison is like shooting a truck. Not much sport involved

People are so naive and they think that animals dont have to be managed. If the habitat was not influenced by humans then they dont have to be managed. But when the habitat is controlled by humans then the animal populations need help and that help comes in the form of management.

Game and fish should give all the wildlife volunteers a tag first .. everyone who gets out and volunteers their time to repair water catchments or help out the wildlife/forest should have first dibs on the tags then the rest should be auctioned off to the public.

So what are you going to do, kill the existing herd off because they might have a little domestic cattle DNA in them? So Arizona Fish and Game can kill whenever they feel like it? And why another bison refuge? There is one in South Dakota, one in Montana, and one in Yellowstone. Typical, government, they can't take care of what they have but they can make more.

The less than pure bison should be harvested by local hunters. But, DFG should also refrain from introducing herds to areas that they never existed. These are large animals that will reduce the forage for more indigenous critters, i.e. Elk and Antelope. Will be interesting to hear what AZDFG decides.

What will happen with the existing herds?

Why can we bring in these bison and protect them but we can't keep and protect the Salt River horses?

Screw the horses!

I am glad to see that you are establishing the herd in the Kaibab. I hope that they can work down some of those dense Aspen thickets and open the forest a bit.

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