Bison Conservation

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Denver Parks and Recreation maintains two conservation bison herds in the Denver Mountain Parks system at Genesee Park and Daniels Park.  The herds are descended from the last wild bison in North America and were originally established at Denver’s City Park by the Denver Zoo and the City of Denver.  By 1908, 18 bison at the zoo were all that remained in Colorado.  The herd was moved to Genesee Park in 1914 and expanded to Daniels Park in 1938. The conservation partnership between the Denver Zoo and Denver Parks and Recreation continues to this day. 

Denver Mountain Parks began caring for the first managed bison herd in Colorado in an effort to conserve the species and prevent extinction.  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. Today it is estimated that there are roughly 500,000 bison in North America.

The City and County of Denver was an early leader in bison conservation and has maintained its herd for more than a century. The purpose of a conservation herd is to support the health and survival of a species by preserving genetic heritage and/or ecological function. Denver’s herd has been important in protecting genetic diversity and supporting population recovery, and for connecting Denver residents and visitors to an important part of our native ecosystem. 

Donation of American Bison to Tribal Nations

Beginning April 2021, DPR will donate surplus bison to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, to return wild bison to their native homes and reintroduce bison to tribal lands. In consultation with DPR’s tribal partners, the Denver American Indian Commission, the Tall Bull Memorial Council and the InterTribal Buffalo Council, the donation of surplus American Bison to American Indian Tribes or American Indian Non-Profit organizations will continue through the year 2030.   

DPR recently hosted its 36th annual Bison Auction at Genesee Park, auctioning off young bison from Genesee Park and Daniels Park. This auction historically kept the herd at a healthy population size and promoted genetic diversity within the managed bison population. DPR will no longer conduct the auction but will work with our tribal partners to select tribes across the country that will accept the bison to build and enhance conservation herds on tribal lands.   

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Conservation herd at Genesee Park.

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Bison are equipped to forage through deep snow and can survive harsh winter conditions.

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A female bison and her young calf.

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