By Anica Padilla

DENVER (CBS4) — More than a dozen wild bison from Denver are being returned to their native homes on tribal lands. On Friday, Denver officials presented 13 American Bison from Genesee Park and Daniels Park to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. The bison are descendants of the last wild bison in North America.

(credit: CBS)

Denver Parks and Recreation maintains two conservation bison herds in the Denver Mountain Parks system at Genesee Park and Daniels Park, to conserve the species and prevent extinction.

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For the past 36 years, Denver Parks and Recreation has auctioned off young bison from the parks to keep the herd at a healthy size. Now, those bison will be donated to select tribes across the country that want to build and enhance conservation herds on tribal lands.

Thirteen bison donated on Friday will go to Oklahoma. Another bison was donated to the Tall Bull Memorial Council in Colorado.

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(credit: CBS)

“The Tribes plan to use the donated bison as a cultural, conservation and educational resource, with the goal of locating the bison on our own tribal natural plains habitat,” said Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Gov. Reggie Wassana.

Surplus bison from the two parks will continue to be donated to American Indian Tribes or American Indian nonprofit organizations through the year 2030.

“Herds that numbered more than 30 million when the first European explorers set foot on the American continent were nearly wiped out by the 1880s. At the turn of the 20th century, fewer than 1,000 bison remained in existence,” Denver officials stated.

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Today it is estimated that there are roughly 31,000 free-range wild bison in North America.

Anica Padilla