Sunday, October 2, 2022
Home SCIENCE The disturbing future of the wild bison of Catalina Island | ...

The disturbing future of the wild bison of Catalina Island | Sciences

A male bison high on a barren hillside on California’s Santa Catalina Island.
alex kowiak

In 1924, during Hollywood’s first golden age, 14 American bison arrived on Santa Catalina Island, 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. The animals were to appear in two movies that were filmed on the island, The American Who Disappears other the thunderous herd, both adapted from the Zane Gray novels. Unfortunately, the animals didn’t make it to the first, and we don’t know if they played a role in the second: the footage is long gone. But the bison stayed, and some of their descendants finally made it to the big screen, in Stanley Kramer’s 1971. Bless the beasts and the children. Descendants of the founding beasts still wield star power, helping to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, but perhaps their most prominent role for decades has been to torment conservationists.

Today, the herd presents benefits and challenges to the local ecology. Visitors take bison tours, enjoy bison burgers (made with meat from the mainland), and drink “buffalo milk” cocktails (with Kahlúa, vodka, half and half, creme de cacao and cream of banana, and no buffalo milk). bison). Said tourism helps finance the non-profit organization Catalina Island Conservancy (CIC), which controls 88 percent of the island and works to restore and protect the native flora.

At its height in the 1980s, the herd numbered 550, but concerns about the animals’ health and ecological impact led the CIC to regularly ship bison off the island. A 2003 study found that bison were still disturbing native flora: Their shaggy coats carry plants that were imported, like fennel, to places they might not otherwise reach, disrupting endemic species like Santa Catalina lace. The study also found that bison were smaller and less fertile than their mainland counterparts, in part due to persistent drought. In 2009, the CIC launched a contraception program for cows, instead of sending them off the island. (During droughts, the CIC places drinking fountains for the animals).

However, population control efforts may have gone too far. By 2020, the herd had been reduced to 100; no calves had been born since 2013, and the CIC scaled back its contraception program in 2015. Before COVID-19, the group had planned to import two pregnant females to add genetic diversity, reigniting debate about herd health and its impact in the country. Calvin Duncan, a former CIC biologist, says an increase in drought threatens the bison, but he thinks they will breed again when conditions improve. Juanita Constible, a consulting biologist on the 2003 study, says that relocating the herd could endanger the island: Without bison grazing, wildfire intensity could increase, as unchewed grass adds fuel.

Evicting the herd would also hurt the island’s residents (4,000 in total), many of whom depend on bison tourism. “Wildlife management isn’t just about wildlife, it’s also about the human context,” says Constible.

RELATED ARTICLES

How to make the perfect cup of coffee, according to science

The following essay is reproduced with permission from The conversationan online publication covering the latest research. Have you ever wondered why the coffee you make...

An earthquake may have discovered 30 new dinosaur footprints in Alaska

A powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck southern Alaska in July 2021. Scientists believe the quake may have yielded more than 30 new dinosaur tracks from...

Address unlit and inefficient gas flaring | Sciences

Emissions from burning threaten the global climate and the health of local communities

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Emily Ratajkowski Has a Great Response to ‘Blonde’ on Netflix

Emily Ratajkowski is "fed up" with people fetishizing women's pain and death. The model and actor said this in response to the new...

15 movies like Beetlejuice | Entertainment

Saying "Beetlejuice" three times won't magically summon a sequel to Tim Burton's classic movie (although one will eventually come, according to term), but it...

Kendrick Lamar performs ‘Father Time’ with Sampha on ‘SNL’

In his second performance of the night, Kendrick Lamar performed "Father Time" at the saturday night live scenery. During the performance, Lamar raps in a...