- Associated Press - Thursday, December 14, 2017

MOROCCO, Ind. (AP) - A wild bison herd has almost doubled since being brought to a northwest Indiana prairie in 2016.

The Nature Conservancy brought 23 bison to its Kankakee Sands preserve in October 2016. The bison have given birth to 10 calves this year - five bulls and five cows, The South Bend Tribune reported. Ten more bison were brought from Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota to join the herd in October.

All of the animals have survived.

Land steward Tony Capizzo said the young bulls have gained 200 to 300 pounds (91 to 136 kilograms) over the past year. The bison were weighed and vaccinated during a visit with a veterinarian.

Also, hair was taken from the animals’ tails to conduct genetic testing. Capizzo said her managers want to reduce health issues by minimizing the risk of inbreeding, so they’re looking for diversity in the bison’s gene pool. That will help determine which among the herd they’ll cull, he says, which won’t be done until it reaches 60 to 70 bison.

The Nature Conservancy brought in the animals because bison are natural prairie farmers. Bison till soil with their hooves, prune trees saplings with their horns, chew down grass and carry seeds in their fur.

Capizzo said the herd isn’t big enough to change the habitat so far. Controlled burns are also conducted to help breed the prairie plants.

The Wind Cave animals descended from bison that the American Bison Society had placed in 1913, according to the Nature Conservancy.

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com

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