A new conservation report finds that the American bison population could be rehabilitated if new government policy allowed the animal to roam free across the prairies. "A report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, prepared by dozens of scientists and bison experts from Mexico, America, and Canada, says there is a chance of a second recovery, nearly a century after the animals were rescued from the brink of extinction.
But success depends on allowing large herds to roam free over thousands or perhaps millions of hectares, an overhaul of government regulations, and a rethink of public attitudes to the animal. Currently, there is only one population of plains bison, in Yellowstone national park. 'The next 10-20 years present opportunities for conserving American bison as a wild species and restoring it as an important ecological presence in many North American ecosystems,' the study says. It says the animals are critical to the restoration of the prairie grasslands. But Americans, especially ranchers in the west who view the animals as competition for grazing lands or a potential source of disease in their cattle, need to accept its presence on the plains. Tens of millions of bison once grazed the rolling hills and prairies of North America, from Alaska to northern Mexico. But by the beginning of the 20th century, the great herds had almost completely wiped out by hunters trying to satisfy the European fur trade."