Wind Cave, Yellowstone NPs home to only pure bison herds in US

HOT SPRINGS, So.Dak. — The fence between Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park has dutifully
separated neighboring bison herds for decades.

But the fence, made of nondescript woven wire, has taken on new importance with a recent scientific discovery involving the pedigree of the Wind Cave herd.

Blood tests indicate that the buffalo roaming Wind Cave National Park are rare — so rare that they are among only two public herds in the nation credited with a crucial genetic distinction.

They lack evidence of cattle genes.

Experts from Texas A&M University have done extensive testing of buffalo DNA to help guide bison conservationists. After testing more than 10,000 bison, the team is confident that only two public herds — in Wind Cave and Yellowstone National Parks — lack evidence of cattle genes.

“It’s the closest thing to what used to wander the prairies for thousands of years,” said Tom Farrell, chief of interpretation for Wind Cave National Park. “This is the closest in going back in time and seeing what the Great American Desert was like.”

Later this month, the park will begin the first of what will become annual blood tests of yearlings to ensure that no traces of cattle influence surface in the herd.

full story