The Henry Mountains in Utah hold one of the country’s most prized possessions, recently proven through testing: the only genetically pure bison herd.
In 1941, 18 Yellowstone bison were transplanted to the area and throughout the following decades, the population was controlled through hunting. The bison herd has grown to 350 bison today and they, in turn, roam across over 300,000 acres of land that is both state property and held by Utah’s Bureau of Land Management.
The most remarkable part about this bison herd that was recently discovered, however, is that each bison inside is a pure genetic line to the Yellowstone bison that were released in the area. This also means that they are free of the brucellosis disease that runs through the Yellowstone bison herds. This disease tends to cause bison to abort pregnancies, which is detrimental to the bison population overall.
Utah State University wildlife ecologist Johan du Toit spoke to that in a press release on the nature of the herd, saying, “This is a remarkable finding considering these free-roaming, legally hunted animals live on unfenced public lands and graze along livestock.”
The Henry Mountain herd, as its affectionately known, has played a huge role in Montana’s approach to recreating buffalo herds on public lands, though that idea is opposed by locals. The success of the Henry Mountain herd is a true testament to the bison’s survival skills and place in the natural world.
Johan du Toit also pointed to the fact that the herd should stand as an overarching success in the movement to conserve the habitat and ecology of the North American plains, citing bison in particular.
The Henry Mountain bison are, indeed, the dream of conservationists nationwide and have been able to flourish in their environment due to the free-ranging attitude, combined with selective and skillful hunting to control the population in the area.