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Bison conservation groups in Colorado continue fight to keep animals thriving

Posted at 6:27 PM, Jun 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-25 07:17:14-04

DENVER -- Bison herds are well known to Colorado, but there's not as many as there used to be.

"Bison aren’t endangered but they’re still a recovering species from when their numbers got quite low and so we’re really wanting to support the efforts in bison conservation," said Colorado State University Assistant Professor Jennifer Barfield.

So three and a half years ago, a group of conservationists had the idea to start their own herd on Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain.

"We started with 10 animals," Barfield said. "We had nine females and one bull calf that went out initially and today we have 76 animals in our herd. A variety of ages and a mix of males and females."

The cap for the herd is 100, so they're almost to capacity already.

"The herd has grown more quickly than expected," she said.

And there's more on the way.

"Hopefully six from this pen," Barfield said, pointing at one area. "They should happen any day. Have some new babies on the ground soon."

Barfield is the lead on the effort and said she wasn't always sure this "good problem" would be the problem they faced.

"I think when it started this is what I hoped would happen," she said. "(It's) hard to imagine when they had the first runout and there’s this big space and a few animals, but I think over the years as its grown, I see more potential for the herd everyday. This is what I wanted."

They've already given some bison away to other conservation groups and are prepared to do more.

"We have talked to several folks who are interested in acquiring animals from our herd and while we are not ready to make any of those public, we are working on those and we’re continuing to get inquiries even now," she said.

There are no plans to slow down, despite the continuous growth.

"Our future goals for the herd is continue supporting bison conservation in general," she said. "Whether that’s giving groups of animals to other herds to support an existing herd or helping to establish a new herd somewhere."

And help a true Colorado native flourish once more.

"That’s our hope," she said.