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Where Small Herds of Bison Roam. For Now

Bison are losing their genetic diversity, with ramifications for the species' future, the Associated Press reports.

According to the AP, a genetic population analysis commissioned by the National Park Service indicates that three federal bison herds are in danger of dying off within 200 years if current herd management practices are kept in place. It adds that the Interior Department oversees about 11,000 bison, but that many of them are part of relatively small herds of 400 or fewer animals, which leaves them susceptible to the effects of genetic drift and inbreeding.

"Some of these herds that lost the most genetic diversity do have a high probability of going extinct, due to the accumulation of inbreeding," Cynthia Hartway from Wildlife Conservation Society who led the analysis, which is undergoing peer review, tells the AP.

She and her colleagues her colleagues found that exchanging bison between the herds might be able to stave off the herds' decline, though Hartway tells the AP that would only be "putting a band-aid on the problem" and that more large herds might be needed.