February 19, 2019

Denver Zoo Donates Three Bison to Southern Plains Land Trust

The bison will spend their time roaming an 18,000-acre ranch where they’ll help restore the ecosystem in Southeast Colorado

Two-hundred miles away from Denver Zoo, on a ranch near Lamar in the southeast corner of Colorado, a trailer opens, and two adult female bison walk out, followed by a feisty young calf. After a moment to regroup, the bison wander farther and farther away, clearly comfortable in what will now be their forever home.

The adult bison used to live at Denver Zoo, but spent the last decade on loan at a different ranch in southeast Colorado. In 2017, Denver Zoo approached the Southern Plains Land Trust (SPLT) to see if these bison, and a seven-month-old calf, could move permanently to the Heartland Ranch. Executive Director Nicole Rosmarino says it was an easy yes, and a year later, the bison made their way to Heartland Ranch.

“We were thrilled to work with Denver Zoo on this,” said Rosmarino, “This is a sanctuary for them, and I think that was an important part of the conversation that we guarantee total refuge, and we give total refuge, not only to bison, but to all the wildlife that utilize Heartland Ranch.”

In addition to the bison, Denver Zoo also donated $25,000 to SPLT for the lifetime care of the animals.

The three donated bison will join the resident herd, which made up of 85 bison that play a key role in restoring the natural ecosystem of the region.

“Bison are a crucial animal to have back on the short-grass prairie and are considered a keystone species,” said Rosmarino. “They literally maintain grasslands by knocking down shrubs, and through their wallowing activities, they create shallow depressions which create pools when it rains, which benefits everything from wildflowers to birds to amphibians.”

The Heartland Ranch is part of the SPLT’s network of wildlife preserves, which are dedicated to restoring ecosystems, and creating sanctuaries for animals like bison, pronghorn and prairie dogs.

“We have almost the entire system back in place much like it would’ve been 200 years ago, so the bison have really been fantastic to have back here,” said Rosmarino.

Even though the bison are important to the preserve, Rosmarino says the only thing the bison have to do is enjoy their new home at Heartland Ranch.



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