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About 1,500 bison roam the hills and prairies in Custer State Park (CSP), a 71,000-acre park that’s something like a drive-through zoo. Bison, elk, antelope, deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, mountain lions, and more wander around the place. Hubby and I have often cruised the wildlife loop road in hopes of catching a glimpse of any kind of critter and are usually successful.

I use the proper term for the noble beasts that live south of us, the American bison, also known as buffalo, tatanka, fluffy cows, and hairy things. They are not for petting; in fact, they run up to 35 mph and can toss a motorcycle over 20 feet in the air. When asked how high a bison can toss a motorcycle, the ranger replied, “How high do you want it to go?” They can also spin a woman on their horns until her pants come off, sling her far enough to severely injure her, and then wear the pants dangling from their horns for several days sort of like an earring. Bison have killed idiotic people who get too close and have caused major damage of vehicles. They are not to be trifled with, especially when calves are around or it’s rut season. Respect and view them from a distance.

Once a year, CSP rounds up the bison and drives them into corrals where they are sorted, vaccinated, and those not culled out are released back into the park. The grasses in the park will not sustain the herd through the winter if they don’t get rid of some. Herd management is required with all the calves born each year. Buffalo ranchers from all over the US come to the auction that will be held the first of November to buy the culls from the CSP herd. The proceeds help support the park and its wildlife management programs. I knew a lady who bought one and sent it straight to the butcher. She had a large freezer and lots of good meat for a year or two.

About twenty-five thousand people get to the corral grounds before the big roundup to watch as the bison are driven over a hill and into the pens. The best time to arrive for a seat is around 4 am. Hubby and I have never been to it, but we talk to a lot of people who do. If we’d been smarter, we’d have gone years ago when we lived in Custer and not as many attended, but we didn’t. I’ll watch it on TV instead and avoid the crowds, dust, and difficulty in leaving the parking area. I’ll attend the Buffalo Roundup Festival that’s in another part of CSP and eat a buffalo burger.

If you’d like to watch the roundup with all its western traditions, riders, the trucks, and ATVs, the SD PBS station broadcasts the activities, and can be viewed now at this link. It’s a different kind of thunder on the prairie.

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