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First Creek at DEN Open Space Closed

Update as of August 16: First Creek Open Space at DEN will remain closed until Labor Day for ongoing monitoring/management efforts. 

To protect public health and safety, Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) has temporarily closed the 198-Acre First Creek at DEN open space due to plague affecting prairie dog colonies at the adjacent Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge (RMANWR).

This action follows confirmation that deceased RMANWR prairie dogs contained the bacterium responsible for sylvatic plague in prairie dogs (also known as bubonic, pneumonic, or septicemic plague when the disease infects people). The temporary closure is being implemented out of an abundance of caution to ensure visitor health and safety.

Plague, a non-native disease in North America, has been present in Colorado for many years, and is present in many parts of the western United States.  Plague is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium (Yersinia pestis) that can be transmitted to humans by rodents and their fleas. 

Prevention:

  • Stay out of areas that prairie dogs inhabit
  • Avoid all contact with prairie dogs and other wild rodents
  • Do not feed or play with prairie dogs
  • Do not touch sick or dead animals
  • Avoid fleas: Protect pets with flea powder, and keep pets on a leash   
  • Do not allow pets to be free roaming in areas with wildlife confirmed with plague.  Animals that roam freely are more likely to come in contact with plague infected animals or fleas and could bring them into homes. If your pet becomes sick, seek care from a veterinarian as soon as possible. Do not allow dogs or cats that roam free in endemic areas to sleep on your bed.
  • Use repellent if you think you could be exposed to rodent fleas during activities such as walking, camping, hiking, or working outdoors. Products containing DEET can be applied to the skin as well as clothing and products containing permethrin can be applied to clothing (always follow instructions on the label).
  • See a physician if you become ill within one week of your visit to the area. Plague is a treatable illness.

DPR staff will continue monitoring prairie dog colonies for signs of plague, and ensure conditions are protective of human and wildlife health.  For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov/plague or contact the Department of Public Health & Environment at 720.865.5484.

First Creek at DEN is located between the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge (RMANWR) and Peña Boulevard, north of 56th Avenue on Buckley Road. Owned by the city through Denver International Airport, DPR manages and maintains the property as Denver’s largest open space and protects its natural resources, including vegetation and wildlife.