Part II: Explain the factors that led to the decline of bison in North America. How many bison once roamed the Great Plains, and how many bison exist now?
Part III: What are the current issues surrounding genetic diversity of bison?
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Different sources have different estimations about the plain bison population that once crowded the Great Plains. Great Plains grasslands are not the only area where bison thrive, but certainly the one that is the most favorable for plain bison. Investigators, settlers and huntsmen have reported about the huge herds of bison estimating the population from 15 to about 100 million of individuals. In the end of 19th century Seton estimated population at approximately 60 million. There were several methods, both quantitative and qualitative, trying to evaluate the abundance of pre-settlement bison, e.g. direct observation or counts of bison that were killed for market in the last decades of 19th century. Unfortunately, none of these methods, alone or in combination with others, is not certain and tested, and it can be considered more as an assumption. However, widely spread thought is that number of bison that inhabited Great Plains before the settlement of Europeans can be expressed in millions, probably even more.
There are number of reasons for extirpation of bison in North America, but they mostly refer to European colonization. Seasonal migrations of bison herds have disguised dramatic decrease of number of bison, but finally in the late 19th century this became quite obvious....
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