Denver Airport Wants to Allow Bison to Roam Free

Travelers into Denver Airport could be welcomed by a herd of bison if a new plan to let the animals roam the facility's property goes through, reports Bruce Finley for the Denver Post.

The proposed deal would allow the bison to roam up to Pena Boulevard – the road travelers take to the airport’s terminal, the Denver Channel reported. “Having that wildlife refuge next door is an unbelievable opportunity for us,” airport manager Kim Day said, according to the Denver Channel. But, the main concern is keeping the bison contained to a certain area and making sure they don’t interfere with the nearby roadway.

Opening up space to bison is more than just a conservation win for Denver airport officials. The iconic animals would make any trip through the airport a memorable one for visitors, especially those not used to seeing animals that can weigh more than 2,000 pounds. And Denver International Airport has the space to spare, notes Finley – its property comprises more than 50 square miles of space, much of it empty.

“How do we keep them enclosed and still allow you to see them from the road?” Day said.

To solve that, Governor John Hickenlooper has suggested viewing stations to overlook the 16,000-acre refuge. This stems from an attempt to protect the wild bison and restore the animals to the West’s natural landscape – over a century after hunters had nearly decimated the species.

About 10 years ago the herd at the wildlife refuge had less than 20 bison. By 2015, that number had grown to 76, according to federal wildlife records. When the refuge takes in 25 more animals next month, the herd total is expected to be around 150.

Bison being able to roam freely has been compromised by the decrease of open prairie land due to widespread city expansion and agriculture.