Look but don’t touch! Stay away from the bison when visiting the Black Hills

 Buffalo at Custer State Park on September 25, 2019. (KOTA TV)
Buffalo at Custer State Park on September 25, 2019. (KOTA TV) (KOTA)
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 5:06 PM MDT
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CUSTER, S.D. (KEVN) - As visitors make their way to the Black Hills for some summer fun, officials want to remind them about the dangers of approaching wild animals. Even ones that may not seem that menacing.

Buffalo may look like a harmless, fluffier version of a cow but looks can be deceiving.

“You get into their bubble, they get frustrated, they’re going to let you know,” said Lydia Austin, interpretive programs manager for Custer State Park.

Brochures and maps for Custer State Park confirm this with a warning to stay away from bison.

“A lot of people say ‘yeah, they’re not like a predator. They’re not scary. They don’t have the teeth.’ They are a big animal that can move fast,” warned Austin.

Despite their broad frame, buffalo can run more than 35 miles an hour and be a defensive animal.

“This is a wildlife park. The animals are wild and you need to give them distance,” said Austin.

Experts suggest staying at least 100 years away from the buffalo. That’s the size of a football field.

Not sure what the size of a football field looks like? Well, then you’re in luck because you can use the rule of thumb.

If you close one eye and cover the animal with your thumb, you should be far enough away. However, that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down.

“Biggest thing is if you’re walking about and an animal changes it’s behavior, it quits eating, it looks at you, it turns to you, you’re too close regardless of the distance and just back away,” said Austin.

Austin said the best place to view wildlife is from your car, but if you decide to venture out on a trail make sure you’re ready to move for the animals.

“We’re guests in their in park. They’re going to go wherever they want to go. So, just because you’re on a trail, just because you’re on a paved path doesn’t mean you’re protected from that animal., You still want to maintain that distance,” explained Austin.

If you do come in contact with any wild animal in the Black Hills and need emergency care, don’t hesitate to call 911.

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