Denver International Airport has a plan to make the area’s famous wildlife apparent from the moment that travelers touch down.
DIA is currently in talks to allow a herd of bison from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge to roam 200 acres of airport land.
If the deal is passed, the herd of about 150 bison would be allowed in a space that leads straight up to the airport’s main road.
“Having that wildlife refuge next door is an unbelievable opportunity for us,” the airport’s manager, Kim Day, told the Denver Post.
The biggest challenge to the deal is figuring out how to keep both bison and the people who visit them safe. Officials have suggested installing fences or moats around the perimeter of the bison’s land. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is supportive of the idea and proposed installed raised viewing stations that would allow people to overlook the refuge from the airport.
However, the bison would not be allowed anywhere near the operational parts of Denver airport, including the runways. The airport has 52.4 square miles of property — the biggest airport space in the country — but much of the land is not being used. (Anyone who has been driving to the airport and wondered if they've reached Wyoming yet knows this well.)
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.