An environmental partnership between Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, a state agency, and the Minnesota Zoo has led to the release of the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd to Minneopa State Park near Mankato, the Mankato Gazette reported.
The herd has high quality genetics managed for the public. It will be expanded through a 2012 formal agreement between the DNR and Minnesota Zoological Garden, according to the state agency.
The cooperation is meant to preserve American plains bison with healthy genetics. The herd is the first to be managed in Minnesota for the conservation effort. It is also meant to preserve other wildlife. The existing herd of 90 bison at Blue Mounds State Park are set to grow a population of 500 animals occupying several locations including Minneopa State Park in Mankato. Genetic testing from 2011 through 2014 indicated they are mostly free of any genetic material which comes from cross-breeding with farm cattle. This makes them rare for modern bison in the United States, which has seen a dwindling population of the creature. A photo slideshow of the animals is available on the DNR website.
Three of the rare bison came from the Minnesota Zoo, according to the Tech Times, while eight were transferred from Blue Mounds State Park.
The Mankato Gazette and a release from the DNR noted that at one time in North America, bison numbered between 30 and 60 million. The bison were hunted throughout the 1700s until they were nearly extinct by the late 1800s. Restorative efforts by environmental agencies and groups started in the 1960s, similar to efforts to restore wild timber wolves in the upper Midwest.
Minneopa State Park is near Mankato, which is home to several educational facilities, making it a prime location to partner with these institutions for research efforts, according to the DNR. The bison will also naturally help manage the prairie landscape through their grazing activity.
“We are excited about our bison conservation partnership with the DNR,” said Tony Fisher, Minnesota Zoo director of animal collections. “The Minnesota Zoo works on animal conservation projects around the world and we are proud to now be helping a rare species right here in Minnesota.”
The zoo will help manage genetic data and provide some technical assistance according to the DNR in Minnesota. The Minnesota Zoo, based in Apple Valley and located south of the Mall of America, will host the animals at their zoo location as well as part of the environmental effort to preserve the beasts.