Raise your glass: Microbrew and crowdfunding support bison conservation project

Scientists, wildlife conservationists, land managers and Native Americans are prepping for the return of American bison with distinctive Yellowstone bloodlines to Northern Colorado Nov. 1. It wouldn’t be a notable event for Fort Collins without a commemorative microbrew.

Pateros Creek Brewing Company is creating Prairie Thunder Imperial Brown Ale to mark the occasion.

The beer will celebrate – and raise money for – the Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation Herd.

The Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation Herd, now housed at the CSU Foothills Campus, will be released Nov. 1 at the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. The prairie is managed by the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas, and Red Mountain Open Space, managed by Larimer County Natural Resources.

The herd of 10 American bison is directly related to those found in and around Yellowstone National Park – but without the infectious disease brucellosis that vexes the foundation herd. Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that infects cattle, elk and other animals, triggering abortion that can devastate herds; people also can be infected, with symptoms including severe intermittent fever.

Early this year, the project received a One Health research grant of $80,000, contributed by colleges on the CSU campus and administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research. Funding for on-site project costs has been contributed by the city and county.

But that’s not enough to indefinitely support the Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation Herd, which eventually will expand to cover about 2,000 acres, twice the size of initial acreage.

Project partners this month launched a crowdfunding effort to raise $20,000 for a holding corral for the herd. It will allow managers to monitor bison health and to gather animals for treatment, if needed.

People interested in supporting it may visit the crowdfunding page to donate. Any amount, large or small, helps the bison effort, Barfield said.

The CSU Native American Cultural Center is involved in welcoming American bison back to part of the creature’s historic range. The release date on National Bison Day is significant as the start of Native American Heritage Month, said Ty Smith, center director.

The center has invited several leaders from the Crow Nation, based in Montana, to offer a prayer as the Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation Herd steps onto its grassland home. Guests also will sing a traditional buffalo song.

After the release, the center plans a discussion about the importance of bison to Native American culture. The gathering will feature guest speaker Solomon Little Owl, a leader of Crow Nation business and veterans programs.

Little Owl will lead the bison discussion beginning at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, in the Lory Student Center Longs Peak Room. The gathering is open to the students and community.

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