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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bison in Denver: Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Where in the world can you drive minutes from the downtown area of a major city and see bison, deer, coyote, eagles, prairie dogs, and a host of other wildlife? I'm not talking about a zoo either - these are animals in their natural setting on over 15,000 acres.

Mule Deer buck at RMA

It's Denver...and I'm talking about Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

The Arsenal sits on the northern edge of Denver, Colorado, and exists as critical habitat for Bald Eagles, Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs, American Bison, and many more species. It's also a favorite for local wildlife photographers, families, and visitors - there is no other place in Colorado where you can be surrounded by a bison blockade!

I have found mornings to be the best time of day to see the animals near the roads and trails, especially during the warmer summer months.

A bison blockade at RMA

Late spring and early summer welcomes the babies to the arsenal. If you're lucky, you might get a chance to see bison, deer, and prairie dog babies. Photographers love this time of year when the grasses green up and the the babies come out to play.

Baby bison with its mother, late May

Baby Prairie Dog, late May

Please note with the animals: they are cute and they are used to people, but these animals are not pets! Please stay a safe distance away from them. Bison are DANGEROUS! Do not leave your car when inside the Bison enclosure. If you find the road blocked by an animal, quietly pull off to the side if you can, and allow them to pass by. Do not honk or try to intimidate them out of the way - this will likely land you a ticket or jail time.

Please don't feed the animals, try to pet them, or in any way hinder their natural behavior. Avoid getting between a mother and her baby - this could get you horns to your ribs!

To get there: Please see this map. The Arsenal is north of Denver on Quebec, near Commerce City and the 270/70 interchange.

Hiking: Several trails in the park are open to the public. Pleas see a current trail map for a complete listing.

Fishing: Fishing is allowed, but check local regulations first before heading out.

Kids: The Arsenal is a great place for kids! Your kids will probably love the being surrounded by bison, or seeing the abundant Mule Deer. And yes, there are restrooms throughout the refuge in case you miss the one at the visitor's center.

Handicapped Access: Some areas and trails are accessible to folks with physical challenges. Restrooms are wheelchair accessible.

Access: Please respect "No Trespassing" signs as some areas of the refuge are currently off-limits to the public.

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