Denver Mountain Parks bison herd

City and County of Denver donates bison to tribal nations

Denver Mountain Park Bison will help establish, support and sustain Native American conservation herds across the country.

Shared by our partners at Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR). For information specific to this article, please contact Cyndi Karvaski at Cyndi.Karvaski@denvergov.org.

DENVER Apr. 2, 2021 – Today, Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) presented 13 American Bison to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, located in Oklahoma and one bison to the Tall Bull Memorial Council in Colorado. This gift is the first of its kind from the City of Denver to return wild bison to their native homes and help reintroduce bison and support conservation efforts on 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 Denver Mountain Park bison to American Indian Tribes or American Indian Non-Profit organizations will continue through the year 2030.  

“Denver shares a common vison with our tribal partners to return and restore wild bison back to historical habitats and ancestral lands,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “Bison restoration efforts teach us how to be better stewards of the land, improve prairie landscapes and ecosystems, ensure genetic diversity of the species, and ensure a legacy of cultural understanding.” 

“This donation is the result and culmination of a very long, storied history and relationship with the State of Colorado,” said Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Governor Reggie Wassana. “The Tribes plan to use the donated bison as a cultural, conservation and educational resource, with the goal of locating the bison on our own tribal natural plains habitat.” 
 
“We appreciate this gift and hope to grow our relationship with the great state of Colorado, ”stated Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes Lt. Governor Gilbert Miles.  

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.  

“Denver City Council adopted a Land Acknowledgement in 2020 which asked us to demonstrate a commitment to dismantle ongoing legacies of oppression and inequity,” said City Councilwoman Jamie Torres. “I’m deeply proud of our City’s effort to work with Tribes and the InterTribal Buffalo Council to ensure cultural and spiritual preservation.” 

DPR maintains two conservation bison herds in the Denver Mountain Parks system at Genesee Park and Daniels Park. The herds are descendants 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. The herd was moved to Genesee Park in 1914 and expanded to Daniels Park in 1938.  

Denver Mountain Parks began caring for the first managed bison herd in Colorado 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 31,000 free-range wild bison in North America.