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A little over one hundred years ago, plains bison were prolific in the Great American West. Reports describe herds containing thousands of animals migrating through the central and western states, totaling 20–30 million across their entire range. With commercial, unregulated hunting in the late 1800s came the rapid demise of bison to barely more than 1,000 by 18891. Recently, renewed interest in restoring these massive animals to at least some of their former range has grown. Efforts are being made to establish “conservation herds”—herds that are specifically managed in the public interest by governments and environmental organizations. For the plains bison native to the United States, there are approximately 19,000 animals comprising 54 known conservation herds.
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Where the bison roam: public-private partnership supports potential restoration