Local ranchers want to bring more buffalo to North America

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DENTON & GAINESVILLE, TX -- Driving through Texas you are bound to see herds of cattle, but inside some North Texas fences ranchers are raising herds of bison.

Ten years ago, buffalo rancher Bob Meritt and his wife Jackie sold their herd of cattle and started searching for their next adventure.

"I had the bright idea, I said, let's raise buffalo," Meritt exclaimed

For 81-year-old Meritt having buffalo was always his dream.

"I'd always admired the buffalo nickel, beautiful buffalo, turn it over, beautiful Indian. Just fascinated me ever since I was a little kid," Meritt said.

Today people come from all over the world to see his buffalo.

"These are the most photographed buffalo I guarantee you in the United States," Merit said.

Just a town away in Gainesville buffalo rancher Tim Frasier's dream has evolved from owning buffalo to bringing them back across the plains.

"Texas is beginning to more and more recognize them in symbolic and a very culturally significant way," Frasier said.

Frasier is leading Texas in a national movement to bring the number of bison in North America up from 200,000 to one million.

"We see things like natural flora coming back when bison are grazing because they're an indigenous animal," Frasier said.

Frasier and Meritt agree that reaching a million buffalo in North America could be a restart. In the 19th century many of the estimated 60 million American Buffalo were hunted and slaughtered.

"That's why we're as motivated and passionate as we are because it's an ecological apology," Frasier said.

Meritt and Frasier have seen an increase in ranchers wanting to become buffalo ranchers. They say it might be due to the health benefits of buffalo meat.

"Less calories, less cholesterol, more protein per bite. More vitamins and minerals per bite," Frasier said.

The buffalo's popularity might make it the nation's first national mammal

"I believe the vote will pass and I think it's the right thing,"Meritt said.

"I could do a lot of things for a living, but as I breathe in and out I wanna do something important and I think restoring this species as a rancher is one of the most important things I can do with my life," Frasier said.

"We will have a presence of buffalo on this ranch for the rest of our lives," Meritt said.

For more information on the Texas Bison Association, visit www.texasbison.org. To learn more about the vote to make bison our national mammal, go to www.votebison.org.

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