Why I listen to public radio, part 3

bison on Catalina

Yesterday morning I learned from Morning Edition on NPR that there are buffalo off the coast of California.

Really.

Of course they didn’t swim to Santa Catalina Island on their own. These buffalo were left behind from a movie shoot back in 1924, and the movie never even got made. But what started out as 14 bison grew to 600 by the 80s. You know the story—a non-native gets introduced to a habitat where it has no natural predators and thrives. Sort of like cane toads, but a lot bigger.

A conservancy group managed to bring the numbers down somewhat through hunting, but was mostly relying on shipping them off to South Dakota. And that’s more than a few forever stamps.

Biologist Julie King is in charge of the wild bison that currently roam the island. That is, they’re her responsibility, but they are not an easy bunch to manage.

“I’m guessing they thought bison were a lot like cattle, that you could turn them loose and herd them fairly easily,” King said.

bison birth controlBut that is not the case, and shipping is costly. So for the past three years they’ve been trying something new—a birth control vaccine injected by dart guns. (I suppose that’s easier than trying to apply condoms.)

Now the herd is at a manageable 150, and they’ve become somewhat popular as a tourist attraction for people who want to see bison but don’t want to go to South Dakota to do it.

To listen to the full story, go to http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=211440302&m=211585110.

 

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