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Donkeys in Cripple Creek released for 93rd year

Posted at 7:22 AM, May 28, 2024

CRIPPLE CREEK, Colo. — For the 93rd year, Cripple Creek's famous herd of donkeys has been loosed from its winter pasture to wander the streets and pastures of the mountain-encircled, gambling town; it's a tradition that has its roots in the mining history of the area.

The donkeys, lauded as "Ambassadors of the Gold Camp," roam freely through the town and surrounding area during the warmer months (until mid-October) and are cared for by the Two Mile High Club (TMHC), a nonprofit dedicated to looking after the herd of donkeys which currently numbers 14 but can reach a capacity of 20 at times.

Memorial Day morning saw hundreds gathered for the chance to feed and pet the friendly herd; this year, the TMHC is directing all visitors to only feed the donkeys specially-made donkey biscuits and not fruits and vegetables. These biscuits can be found at the feeding platform at the herd's winter pasture or at local museums and retails shops.

Gentle and approachable, the donkeys enjoy gobbling up approved donkey biscuits. These specially formulated approved donkey biscuits help keep the donkeys at a healthy weight. We recently updated our feeding guidelines, we realize that many people may think carrots, apples and bananas are top-notch snacks for the donkeys, but they are high in sugar and when not given in moderation, these otherwise good snacks can be unhealthy. PLEASE feed the herd ONLY approved “donkey biscuits”, which are available for donation at the feeding platform at the donkeys winter pasture, the local museums and retail shops.

Founded in 1931, the TMHC was created specifically to care for the numerous donkeys that were turned loose from nearby mines in the earliest parts of the 20th century once mining practices began to modernize.

According to the club, the freedom of these donkeys was also influenced by strong words from Theodore Roosevelt.

Local legend ties President Teddy Roosevelt to [the] release, believing that he was the reason the miners set the donkeys free from their burdensome work, where they often didn't see the light of day. How they came to roam free in the city is up for debate, but what is known is that a group of caring and responsible local businessmen came together to propose a solution to provide the care needed by these beasts of burden. They established the Two Mile High Club to give that needed care as the donkeys made their home in Cripple Creek.

Since its inception, the TMHC has been seeing to the needs (vet care, feed, shelter, etc.) of their free-minded herd of town mascots; the efforts of the nonprofit typically cost in the range of $25,000 - $30,000 which equates to about $2,000 per donkey each year.

Currently, the TMHC is also working to raise funds to construct a new barn, a project that could cost $120,000 - $150,000 according to club president, Brandon Westhoff.

The current barn shows its age and needs replacing and upgrading. The new barn will feature a storage room for merchandise, stalls for individual donkey care, a large pen inside the barn for the whole herd to get out of the elements, an office to keep all health records, a clean/vet room to perform necessary care the donkeys need onsite and a lean-to off the new barn for a new group feeding area. The Club cares for several senior donkeys that require more care and attention, and a new barn is just what they need.

The Two Mile High Club is also gearing up for the 93rd annual Donkey Derby Days which will take place at the end of June and is known to draw folks from all over to Cripple Creek and act as the nonprofit's largest fundraiser.

For more information on the history of the Cripple Creek donkeys or the Two Mile High Club, click here.

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