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Some bison from thinned South Dakota herd being shipped to Arizona

(Kurt Wilson/The Missoulian via AP)

PHOENIX — Bison wandering plains in South Dakota this week will soon find themselves at their new home thousands of miles away in northern Arizona.

The Rapid City Journal reported that the Arizona-bound animals were from the Wind Cave herd, a group whose genes have gone undiluted for more than 100 years since they were released in the area by zookeepers from the Bronx Zoo.

Arizona Game and Fish officials first reached out to their counterparts in South Dakota about the animals two years ago. They hoped the Wind Cave bison would replace a herd that had cattle genes.

“The pure bison lineage is a great opportunity for us,” Game and Fish spokeswoman Shelley Shepherd told the Journal.

The Wind Cave bison have 10 genetic variations unique only to that herd.

South Dakota officials said, by shipping the animals elsewhere, they have both a way to maintain a sustainable population and the means to replace the herd should it be wiped out by disease.

The animals will be taken to the Raymond Wildlife Area, about 30 miles east of Flagstaff.

Bison in the Grand Canyon area have caused Arizona officials headaches in recent months. In September, they took another step toward reducing the herd size through a combination of lethal and nonlethal measures.

“We feel that the population number is too high,” said Shelly Shepherd said last month. “They are causing damage to archaeological sites, water sites, soil and vegetation.”

Cronkite News’ Isaac Windes contributed to this report.

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