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Home on the range: Bison herd being moved to Arizona

(Kimm Anderson/St. Cloud Times via AP)

PHOENIX — A new herd of bison is being brought to Arizona in an effort to restore the animals’ genetic make-up.

The herd of 60 bison is coming from South Dakota and will live on the Raymond Wildlife Area in Northern Arizona.

The transfer is the result of an agreement between the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, the U.S Department of Interior, National Park Service and Wind Cave National Park in western South Dakota. The agreement established a Plains Bison Conservation Herd in northern Arizona, with genetic lineage from the Wind Cave herd.

Shelly Shepherd of the Flagstaff Game and Fish Office said many bison, through cross-breeding, have ended up with some cattle DNA.  The purpose of the new herd is to eliminate that

“They are going to have a good strong genetic lineage, historical lineage, which does not include cattle DNA,” she said.

Any animals with cattle DNA currently in the Raymond Wildlife Area will be gone when the new herd is acquired in 2017.

“Over the next two years, through closely monitored hunting practices, we will be removing those animals completely out of that population,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd said the department is excited to be part of a national effort to return bison — which are different from buffalo — back to their historical genetic lineage.

She said the department will maintain all the current management practices at Raymond, which means it will still be open to the public for most of the year for wildlife viewing opportunities and hunting will continue.

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