Three young bison bulls donated by media tycoon Ted Turner from his New Mexico herd will be introduced into the Texas Bison Herd at the Caprock Canyon State Park next summer. It is hoped they will provide much needed genetic diversity.
The Texas Bison Herd originated in the late 1800s with five bison calves captured by famed cattleman Charles Goodnight. The herd was donated to the state in 1997 and moved to the park. More information about the herd is available from http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/expltx/eft/bison/ .
But even with intensive management by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that includes annual vaccinations, supplemental feeding and veterinary care, the herd has produced a small number of calves over the last six years. Possibly more troubling, the average age of approximately 40-animal herd has increased by three years, said Dr. James Derr, associate professor of veterinary pathobiology with the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.
Derr and Dr. Natalie Halbert, a post doctoral research associate in the College of Veterinary Medicine, were asked to help.
"If you have a healthy, stable population that's having a reasonable number of offspring and the old ones are dying the average age should not significantly increase over time," Derr said. "If the population is expanding and more babies are being born than old ones are dying, the average would actually decrease.
"We, as geneticists, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as wildlife managers, had a concern that something wasn't going right. The managers were doing everything they could, and the herd was not increasing in size."
While sampling the DNA and doing pregnancy tests in the fall of 2001, Derr and Halbert found that 15 of t
Contact: Edith A. Chenault
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications