What to do when you encounter bison in Custer State Park

Safety precautions to take when encountering a herd of bison
Safety precautions to take when encountering a herd of bison
Safety precautions to take when encountering a herd of bison(kota/KEVN)
Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 4:27 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) -Last year a woman was thrown by a bison in Custer State Park. It happened during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. While she wasn’t seriously injured, the incident could have had a whole different ending.

From the northern to the southern hills, Rally-goers are making their way to all the popular spots and catching some of Black Hill’s most iconic sites, and that includes bison herds in Custer State Park. And, some of those herds are growing.

“It’s breeding season so you’re going to see a lot of those bigger bulls join the main group of the herd of the cows and the younger calves,” said Kobee Stalder, visitor service program manager at Custer State Park.

With the increase of bison and visitors... it’s always a sight when their paths cross but during the breeding season, known as the bison rut, the bulls are more temperamental, meaning people should keep their distance.

Stalder says if you see bison on the side of the road, to stay in your car. He also advises staying 100 yards away from the buffalo if you encounter some while on foot.

“You can actually take your thumb and you can hold it up against your eye and if your thumb covers the entire animal then that means you’re at a safe distance but if there’s any part of the animal that’s sticking out on either side of your thumb, that means you’re too close and you should back away and just give that animal a lot of space,” said Stalder.

While observing the bison safely is key, it is also a fun experience.

“You get to see those bulls and sometimes they fight, and you get to hear all the sounds of the herd, and them wallowing and pawing the ground, and it’s pretty fun to watch,” said Stalder.

The bison rut season starts at the end of July and runs through September, which is when herds will be moving a lot throughout Custer State Park. The peak of the rut occurs just in time for the Sturgis Motorcycle rally, the first couple weeks of August, so it’s important for bikers to also keep a safe distance from the bison.

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