Published: Sept. 1, 2012 By

Last October Ted Turner offered to give the city of Boulder a herd of 25 buffalo to put on city open space along the Boulder-Denver Turnpike.

“The city of Boulder will have an ecosystem that is pretty much exactly like it was 300 years ago — right here for local citizens to see,” Turner told the Daily Camera. “It will be an attraction.” bison in field

The idea was thought up by Boulder City Councilman George Karakehian and George McKerrow Jr., the CEO of Turner’s Ted’s Montana Grill, where the specialty of the house is buffalo. The Boulder outlet is at 17th and Pearl.

“What a cool idea,” I thought at the time. “The city will jump at it. It’s a real no-brainer.”

“Not, so fast,” chorused the city moms and pops. “What about funding?”

“And liability?”

“And the rare prairie grasses? They might walk on them or even eat them.”

“And conflicts with other open space users like mountain bikers.”

Everyone was stunned. It was the first time that anyone in city government had said anything nice about mountain bikers since the Triassic period. Trust me on this. I checked the geologic record.

“We need a study,” said the city manager.

At which point the city moms and pops fell to debating whether the beasts in question should be called bison or buffaloes, which continued until Mayor Matt Applebaum declared “they’re familiarly known as American buffalo.”

Three months later the study arrived.

“Accepting the big guys is gonna cost you $470,000 to $750,000 up front, and $100,000 a year until the beginning of the next Ice Age (which has been postponed indefinitely due to global warming),” the consultant opined. “Most of that will go for fencing.”

“How are the buffalo gonna roam if they’re fenced in?” said the city moms and pops.

And quicker than you can say “killjoy,” they voted to look the gift herd in the mouth.

This decision may turn out to be imprudent, especially in a city already brimming with prairie dogs.

It turns out that in addition to having 55,000 head of buffalo roaming his ranches, Turner has about 250,000 prairie dogs on his land. The day he was in town to announce the buffalo gift, he also was due to receive the “Prairie Dog Protector of the Year Award” from the Boulder-based Prairie Dog Coalition.

At the time he told the Camera that creating a market for buffalo meat — i.e., putting them on the menu at Ted’s Montana Grill — has been key to helping the species thrive.

“You either eat them or they’re gone,” he said.

Then, the Camera reported, “his eyes lit up with an idea to help another species.”

“If we could just eat prairie dogs — there would be millions of them,” he said.

Photo courtesy Casey A. Cass