|For many, plains
the embodiment of wildness and the pre-settlement American West.
After millenia of evolution through natural selection, however,
the species was nearly exterminated, only to be subjected to domestication
for more than 100 years. Domestication alters the bison genome
through inbreeding, crossing with cattle genes, shrinking genetic
diversity and artificial selection. These forces continue to replace
natural selection and valued wild characteristics of bison. Does
the future hold only continued domestication for plains bison
in the United States?
With a view from over 50 years in the profession of wildlife
biology, Bailey probes this and other questions in his original
analysis of 44 conservation bison herds on native range in the
United States. He focuses upon the gray area between wildness
and domestication and sheds light on domesticating practices
of Native American and government agencies, as well as commercial
producers. He challenges the profession of wildlife management
to expand its views of opportunities for manipulating wildlife
populations. For bison, Bailey makes a strong case for creating
large reserves to restore wild bison and their natural contributions
to our grassland ecosystems.
Jim Bailey was professor of wildlife biology at Colorado State
University for 20 years, teaching big-game management and wildlife
nutrition. His first book was Principles of Wildlife Management.
In retirement, he became interested in the management of bison
in Yellowstone National Park. This led to his survey of the
conservation status of bison in the United States and reassessment
of wildlife management's influences upon the future evolution
of large wild mammals.