Updated: 5 days ago
by Abbie Krause
America's National Mammal
Few things are as symbolic of the story of the American West as the American Bison. Its majestic physical presence, importance as a keystone species and its comeback story led Congress to honor this iconic and resilient species, with the 2016 National Bison Legacy Act designating the American bison as the National Mammal. During this current pandemic and politically challenging times, it is inspiring to remind ourselves that this designation was made citing that the bison is ”a U.S. symbol of unity, resilience and healthy landscapes and communities.” What more appropriate and needed inspiration could Americans ask for during these challenging times? Indeed, when things could not look bleaker for the American bison at the turn of the last century as it teetered on the edge of extinction, their comeback story and the recognition of the historical, cultural, and economic importance of bison can serve as a reminder to all of us of some core centering values and provide hope. The logo says it all.
The Pueblo Zoo is proud to be home to three bison and has adopted the Laramie Foothills Conservation Herd as one of their four priority conservation species. The bison of the Laramie Foothills Conservation Herd are descendants of the Yellowstone National Park herd, notable for its valuable and unique genetics. Yellowstone National Park is the only place in the U.S. where bison have continuously lived since prehistoric times. What makes Yellowstone’s bison so special is that they’re the pure descendants (free of cattle genes) of early bison that roamed our country’s grasslands. The problem has been that the Yellowstone herd also carries brucellosis, a devastating disease to cattle that has been eradicated elsewhere in the United States. This partnership of Colorado State University, USDA, County of Larimer and the City of Ft. Collins is key in preserving the genetics of pure bison.
The Pueblo Zoo is proud to be able to contribute to that effort not only through contributions to the conservation organization, but also in a practical, hands-on way as the home of bison that will hopefully contribute to the population of genetically pure bison.
In 2017 CSU contacted the Pueblo Zoo for help with two young calves that had been abandoned by their mothers. Pueblo had a three-time bison mother who also rejected her calves giving the zoo keepers extensive experience in hand-raising calves. Sid and Ginger came to Pueblo and thrived. Testing confirmed that the dominant bull in Pueblo, Cody, had pure bison genetics untainted by cattle genes. The hope is that Cody and Ginger will breed and one day contribute to the population of pure, disease free bison.