FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Over the past couple of months, 14 American bison calves have been born at the Rawhide Energy Station.
The first bison herd rumbled off the railcars at Rawhide twenty-one years ago as environmental ambassadors for Platte River Power Authority, the owners and operators of the coal-fired power plant. These twenty animals, nine cows, 10 calves and one mature bull - The Duke of Wellington, were returning to the high plains surrounding the power plant that once were covered with dark herds and made the pastures their own. As representatives of Platte River, these massive sentinels of the plains symbolize the utility's commitment to a clean environment and are a reminder of how a progressive power-generation facility like Rawhide can coexist in harmony with nature.
In 1986, Platte River began taking entries to the National Stock Show for the National Bison Association Gold Trophy Show and Sale and has annually since then. Over 100 animals have been entered in a variety of classes and won more than 50 trophies. At the 1997 Gold Trophy Show and Sale, Platte River took home the prestigious Tony Heim Memorial Award for producer of the year. Funds received from the sale of the animals are used for herd maintenance.
"Whatever we do, the Bison are still in charge," said Mike MacNaughton, senior facilities maintenance worker at Rawhide who is responsible for the bison herd. "They are wild animals that, for the most part, take care of themselves. The less you do for them the better. All of the employees at Platte River keep up-to-date on the herd and number of calves born each spring. It's just one example of how we nurture the environment."
Platte River works with the Large Animal Science Department and College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University to maintain the herd. Platte River's staff provides water and supplemental feed. University animal experts provide advice and veterinary services.