Managing a single buffalo is hard enough — as University of Colorado football fans learned on November 5, before a game against USC, when two of the cowboy-hat-clad trainers for Ralphie, CU's real live buffalo mascot, wiped out while they were running around Folsom Field with their woolly, 1,300-pound charge. So managing an entire herd of bison is probably not something that really interests the university.
That's the word from CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard in the wake of billionaire Ted Turner's offer to donate twenty bison to the city of Boulder. Turner sprung the idea on Boulder in late October, when he was in the People's Republic to receive an award from the Prairie Dog Coalition at its annual fundraiser, "Living on Burrowed Time." While accepting the Prairie Dog Protector of the Year award and speaking about wildlife preservation, Turner suggested that the herd could be placed between the city and Davidson Mesa, where it would be visible to anyone driving the Interstate 36 corridor between Denver to Boulder.
Easier said (by a billionaire) than done.
"I think it was assumed at the beginning that we'd be interested because of Ralphie," Hilliard says. But managing a buffalo herd isn't something that would connect to any of CU's academic programs, and it's also not a project for the athletic department. "It's a nice idea that's attached to our symbol, and we'll see where it goes," Hilliard continues. "I guess I would say that we are a detached and slightly interested observer." (Although not as detached as a severed bison head that Boulder police discovered in a resident's front yard this past weekend; after the grisly find, police did a welfare check on Ralphie, who was reported to be safe and sound.)
So now it's up to Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks Department to figure out whether the herd could work.
"We had been looking at the idea conceptually since early September," says department director Mike Patton of the notion of introducing a herd of bison somewhere on land owned by the city. But the I-36 corridor presents a lot of challenges, among them the fact that bison, while not typically aggressive, can be wild and dangerous and are expensive to keep corralled and maintain; that all of the open space along the highway is leased or otherwise accounted for; and that there are legal and liability issues. "It's a tough go," Patton says.
It's possible that one of the ranchers who already leases some of that land for cattle grazing would be interested in making the transition to bison — the Denver-based National Bison Association has already contacted the City of Boulder regarding that idea — but that's a long shot, Patton adds. Boulder also plans to meet with officials from the City of Denver, which owns two herds of its own (at Genesee and Daniels Park), to discuss the challenges involved. But Denver has been stymied in its own plans for a third herd, which former mayor Wellington Webb had initially envisioned grazing in the grass alongside Peña Boulevard.
"It will be an interesting process," Patton concludes. Go, Buffs!
Scene and herd: If Thanksgiving is close, then it must be time for another dust-up at the Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs, which is overseen by the state's lieutenant governor. Years ago, Lite Guv Mike Callihan delivered a real turkey when he proposed parking a Mayflower van in front of the Capitol, then serving Thanksgiving dinner — consisting of all Always Buy Colorado courses — out of it to a representative sampling of the state's needy Native Americans.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
The current controversy sounds a little more serious: Carol Harvey, the executive secretary of the commission for almost two years, was let go earlier this month; the details behind her discharge were slated for discussion at a meeting on Wednesday, November 16.
"We did make a change," says Julie McCluskey, spokeswoman for Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia. "We are grateful to Carol for her two years of service to the state, the tribes and the commission." But because of recent allegations by Harvey, she notes that she cannot say much more.
But Harvey can. "I have respectfully requested a civil and criminal federal and state investigation," she writes to supporters. "It is not enough that President Obama will meet with our Tribal Leaders on December 2. We have to act to protect ourselves."
Just watch out if you see a moving van pull up...