By Jamie Leary
GENESEE, Colo. (CBS4) – The City and County of Denver hosted a record breaking bison auction Tuesday at its Genesee Park Bison Ranch. The total raised was $65,700, which is the most money raised in the auction’s 33-year history.
“Things are going very well. You know, we would like to keep ’em all but unfortunately we can’t. We have to run a certain number of breeding adults on the property so we don’t overgraze and we don’t hurt pastures,” said Matthew Brown, manager of the ranch.
Brown has been working for the ranch for seven years and with the Denver Parks and Recreation for 19 years. It’s safe to say he loves his job.
“I started here when I was 18 years old and I’ve loved every minute since I’ve been here,” said Brown. “It’s just a unique job within the City and County of Denver. Denver wanted to preserve the Wild West.”
Thirty-four calves were up for auction up from the two herds owned by the city.
“They’re all right around 10 months old, the blue tags are all from Genesee. The orange tags are all from the Daniels farm. Broncos colors, you know,” Brown said.
The highest priced bison, a 578 pound 10-month old male from the Genesee herd, sold for $2,500. The Daniels Park Bison generated $31,600 and the Genesee herd generated $34,100, averaging $3.85 per pound.
Ernie Fischer, a rancher from Bismarck, made the trek for the third year in a row.
He breeds the animals for various zoos across the northern part of the country and Friday, he hoped to fit between five and six calves into the trailer he brought with him.
“Number 26 catches my eye and number 22 does and they’re just, they’re thick in the shoulders. They’re long in their back,” Fischer said as he pointed to the ones that caught his attention.
“I should’ve brought a bigger trailer,” he sighed.
This year’s sale will leave 32 breeding adult bison in the Genesee herd and 30 at Daniels Park. Funds from the sale will help offset costs for veterinary services and hay over the winter and assist Denver Parks and Recreation in maintaining the herds and conserving pasture resources.
The bison preserve is located within the 2,413-acres Genesee Park, which was acquired by the City of Denver in 1912. Both the Genesee Park and Daniels Park bison are descendants of the last wild bison herd left in the United States. The first bison were obtained from Yellowstone Park and established at Genesee Park in 1914.
Denver Mountain Parks began caring for the first managed bison herd in Colorado in an effort to preserve the species.
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 500,000 bison in North America.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.