Denver airport in talks to allow bison to roam on 200 acres
DENVER — A plan is in the works to allow bison from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge to roam on 200 acres belonging to the Denver International Airport, airport officials said.
The deal, if it goes through, would bring the bison right up to Pena Boulevard, the road that travelers take to the airport’s white-tented terminal, the Denver Post reported in a story published Sunday.
“Having that wildlife refuge next door is an unbelievable opportunity for us,” airport manager Kim Day said. “It is something you will not see in Des Moines.”
The biggest concern is containing the massive animals inside a fence and keeping them off of the roadway.
“How do we keep them enclosed and still allow you to see them from the road?” Day said.
Gov. John Hickenlooper has supported the idea and suggested viewing stations that overlook the 16,000-acre refuge next to the airport.
Word of the potential deal comes after federal wildlife officials doubled the fenced space for the refuge’s herd, which now numbers 122 bison after 18 calves were born this year.
Wildlife officials plan to import 25 more bison to the refuge in October as part of a project to restore wild bison to the West’s landscape after they were nearly wiped out by hunters more than a century ago.
Expanding cities and agriculture have sharply reduced the amount of open prairie in the West since the bison’s peak numbers, and their ability to roam freely has been sharply curtailed.
Yellowstone National Park has the largest wild bison population at about 5,500 animals.
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Wayne Hall took a job as an air traffic controller at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in 2003 thinking he would stay for a short time. Instead he stayed for nearly 17 years and was promoted up to the position of air traffic manager. He reflected on the experience upon retirement.