Buttercup the rescue bison survives Cameron Peak Fire

It was 3 a.m. when Dr. Amy MacNeill heard a knock on the front door. The sheriff confirmed news of a mandatory evacuation because the Cameron Peak Fire was rapidly approaching her home in Bellvue. MacNeill scrambled in the dark to pack up her belongings and load up the truck.

“We were trying to do all this in the middle of the night,” MacNeill said.

bison drinking water
Buttercup drinks from her watering trough. (Amy MacNeill)

In addition to packing a bag for herself, she managed to load up her three cats, three dogs, and three horses in the truck and trailer and get them all to safety. But there wasn’t enough time to get Buttercup, their rescue bison, on the road with them.

“We wouldn’t have had time to load her up,” MacNeill said. “We made it so that she could get out of her pasture if she needed to and were hoping she’d be safe.”

About three or four days after being evacuated, MacNeill received a call from the fire chief to tell her the house burned down. She alerted him that they had livestock on the property, and that they were worried about Buttercup. A few days later, a neighbor received news that a firefighter had been taking care of a bison.

“It was six days or so before we really knew what happened to her,” MacNeill said. “Finding out Buttercup survived the fire was probably the best news of our last two weeks.”

Withstanding fire and ice

bison eating hay
Buttercup eats hay delivered by MacNeill after the mandatory evacuation was lifted. (Amy MacNeill)

The property MacNeill purchased when she moved to Colorado in 2013 used to be a bison ranch. Buttercup was born there, and so the now 22-year-old bison “came with the house.”

While the neighborhood was still under a mandatory evacuation, one of MacNeill’s neighbors received news that despite the fire, their home was still standing. Since the mandatory evacuation was lifted, MacNeill’s family was able to return to their property to check on Buttercup, and are grateful they will be able to keep her water from freezing during the winter using their neighbor’s electrical service.

“The support of this community has been overwhelming,” MacNeill said. “A shout out to the firefighters – I can’t imagine them taking care of the animals out there while they’re trying to do everything else, too. It’s amazing.”