First purebred bison roam Larimer County since Civil War – Loveland Reporter-Herald
FORT COLLINS – A rare herd of genetically pure bison will roam the plains of Larimer County later this year for the first time since the days of the Civil War.
In November, conservationists plan to release 12 bison from the last herd of genetically pure wild bison in the United States on 800 acres of Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain Open Space. The herd was able to grow thanks to new technology developed at Colorado State University.
“It’s been over 150 years since the last genetically pure bison roamed the grasslands of Larimer County,” Natural Resources Department director Gary Buffington told county commissioners at a meeting Tuesday.
“Today we are here to talk about their return.
In the past, wild bison roamed the land abundantly, but they were hunted almost to extinction. And most of the bison herds that still exist are no longer pure, their genetics weakened over time through crossbreeding with cattle.
But to the north, in Wyoming and Montana, one last resource still exists.
“Yellowstone is the last reservoir of pure bison,” said Jennifer Barfield, assistant professor at Colorado State University.
However, this herd has brucellosis, a highly contagious bacterial infection that can spread and devastate cattle herds and affect humans. In cattle and bison, infection interferes with reproduction and milk production.
So until Colorado State University and the United States Department of Agriculture began working on new technology that allows them to eliminate infection from sperm or embryos, the Yellowstone herd was not a pond for reproduction.
This has changed with new technology.
Over the past three years, the Fort Collins team has been successful in taking embryos from infected mothers, freeing them from the disease, and transplanting them into healthy bison for healthy babies with pure genetics.
In addition, they collected sperm from pure males with brucellosis, ruled out the disease, and then inseminated healthy mothers.
The result is 12 healthy, genetically pure bison that will settle on 800 acres of public land starting this fall. Researchers will continue to test the bison to ensure they remain healthy.
Most of the fenced area will be on Soapstone Prairie, a natural area owned and operated by Fort Collins, but it will also spill over into neighboring Red Mountain open space, which is Larimer County open space.
Eventually, the acreage could more than double, the herd could grow larger, and a trail would be built for safe viewing, said Daylan Riggs of the Fort Collins Department of Natural Areas.
But to start, it will be 12 healthy animals this fall, bringing back to Larimer County a natural resource that was extinct 150 years ago.
Pamela Johnson: 970-669-5050, ext 526, [email protected], Twitter / @ RHPamelaJ.