Saturday, September 11, 2010


Tatanka is the Lakota Indian word for Buffalo, or Bison bison. There are a lot of them in Custer State Park, some 1300 to be exact. We saw a number of bison yesterday as we drove the Wildlife Loop in CSP. The herds mostly ignore the cars driving through their range and stopping for a better look. We were warned, however, not to approach them. The bulls can be especially unpredictable during the rut, which is just ending. This bull and his lady friend were cuddling apart from the rest of the herd, while the big fellow in the other photo was strolling among his harem. They will be rounded up at the end of this month and sold to reduce the herd to some 930 animals. Since the park does not feed the bison over the winter, it is necessary for the herd to be culled each year so it will not exceed the carrying capacity of the park.

Bison are everywhere in Custer City as well as in the park. The town has on display a number of Tatanka like these decorated by local artists, many of Native American descent. They will be auctioned off the end of this month, so we could possibly bring one home to display at the farm. Transport home might be a bit of a problem, though!

We saw a lot more than bison on our drive, however. A herd of "wild" donkeys make their home at CSP. We were told they are the descendants of donkeys once used to carry tourists to the top of Mt. Harney, the tallest peak in South Dakota. When the donkey rides were discontinued, the donkeys were turned loose to fend for themselves. They are doing quite well, and are very friendly. One lovely lady donkey tried to give John a kiss through the car window, and this fuzzy young fellow was quick to come up to have his ears scratched.

The pronghorn antelope in the park aren't quite so friendly, but you can approach them in the car as they graze by the side of the road. This handsome fellow and his herd were quite unconcerned until Lucky Dog and Nickie got excited and started barking madly and begging us to let them out for a chase. I guess they looked like the deer the dogs see almost every day when we take our walk on the forest trails near camp (and which they do chase)!

We also saw quite a "herd" of turkeys grazing almost alongside the pronghorns. Here you can just see them in the tall grass between the road the antelope.


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