Bison return to the Colorado Prairie at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area
About 150 years ago, millions of bison roamed the Great Plains, including many parts of Colorado. Unfortunately, mass slaughter of bison beginning in the early 1800s led to fewer than 1,000 bison remaining by 1889. Today, thanks to the work of Native American tribes, government agencies, groups such as Defenders of Wildlife and passionate citizens, wild bison are making a small comeback in a few scattered places.
This year, another location has joined the list of places restoring wild bison. As part of National Bison Day celebrations, ten bison, descendants of wild Yellowstone National Park bison, were reintroduced to Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, a city-owned property just north of Fort Collins, Colorado. This new herd currently consists of seven adult bison females, two yearling females and one bull calf. The short-term goal is to more than double the pasture size – currently about 1,000 acres – within the next year or so to accommodate more bison. The long-term goal is not yet decided, but the potential for expansion is tremendous. It’s up to the people of Fort Collins, Colorado and Larimer County to decide.
Defenders was happy to help make this reintroduction a reality by providing financial support for the bison fencing, and by volunteering at Soapstone Prairie last summer to help ready the range for the bison’s return. Thanks to the conservation vision of the City of Fort Collins, Larimer County, Colorado State University and others, bison are once again roaming a landscape that has not seen the hoof prints of these iconic animals for nearly 150 years. Defenders staff and supporters joined more than 350 community members to witness the reintroduction and celebrate as these animals thundered out of their holding corral, home once again on the prairies of Colorado.