By James A Bailey
For many, plains bison are the embodiment of wildness and the pre-settlement American West. After millennia of evolution through natural selection, however, the species was nearly wiped out, 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 American Plains Bison: Rewilding an Icon. The book presents his original and lively 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 bison producers. He challenges the profession of wildlife management to expand its views on 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.