Wait a minute.....those aren't buffalo!
Eeep...caught in the act! I captured this turkey trio drinking from my parent's birdbath one morning. Between the visiting deer, rabbits, and flocks of wild turkeys, their yard became quite the "Wild Kingdom."
|Custer State Park entrance|
In the previous post, I'd mentioned that when visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota, I always make at least one trip to Custer State Park. Not only offering spectacular scenery, this park also boasts plentiful wildlife, including 1,500 free roaming bison.
|This big guy was right beside our truck!|
A couple of years ago, I'd stumbled across a small herd of the shaggy beasts. Unprepared for photography, I managed to get off only two mediocre shots. But this trip, determined to redeem my photo fail, I headed back in search of buffalo. My mom and dad were more than happy for an excuse to revisit.
The planets aligned big time. Barely past the park entrance, I spotted my first buffalo. A huge, shaggy male was walking right beside the main road. I leaned out the window and fired away with my camera.....that is, until the big guy decided to come up right alongside our truck! Let me tell you, those bison are way bigger in real life. I hastily ducked inside and let him pass.
|Big guys resting|
Not a quarter mile up the road, we hit the buffalo jackpot. The forest opened up into a large meadow, covered with brown, shaggy bodies. My dad edged the truck closer and I began taking copious photos out the window (for safety's sake, don't ever get out of your car to photograph these big beasts).
|Mama and her calf|
The majority of the herd were either lying down or grazing. A steady stream of vehicles with camera-toting tourists hanging out of windows didn't faze them in the least.
I switched to my zoom lens and began capturing dozens of buffalo, up close and personal.
|Rolling in the dirt|
This big guy was taking a dust bath.
|Checking out his neighbor|
My dad wanted to check out the State Game Lodge, so we backtracked a short distance. Whatever bison weren't in that first field were all hanging out around the lodge and Peter Norbeck Visitor Center.
It was such a large herd, the beasts created traffic jams whenever they crossed the road. These guys have the right-of-way, so when this happens there's not much you can do but sit tight and wait for them to pass.
|This herd took over the cabin area|
The buffalo were camped out beside a nearby parking lot and restroom. Some unsuspecting tourists got a big surprise as they walked toward the facilities. I think they ended up holding it!
An large field near some rental cabins was taken over by the huge herd. I'm not sure what the cabin's guests ended up doing. They might've been stuck inside all day.
Of course I tried to get some video footage of the big guys in action. Sadly, they weren't all that active (well, except for an attempted romantic encounter towards the end of this clip).
After seeing our fill of buffalo (enough to last until next year!) my dad continued our drive down the park's "Wildlife Loop." An appropriately named road, it wasn't long until we spotted a herd of antelope.
|Checking out the weird lady with a camera|
These guys didn't seem to mind having their pictures taken by a crazy lady with a huge lens.
Then we came upon Custer State Park's famous "begging burros." These wild donkeys are descendants from a herd that once hauled visitors to the top of Harney Park. After the rides were discontinued (many years ago) the burros were released into the park.
|This truck got mobbed!|
Through the years tourists stopped to photograph these friendly donkeys. People began feeding the beasts, and over time it became a park tradition. The wild donkeys are nicknamed "begging burros" because they approach vehicles expecting food. As you can see, the burros are quite aggressive, sticking their heads into open car windows.
|Can't resist this cutie|
I have fond childhood memories of driving through Custer State Park, and feeding the donkeys out the back window of my parent's station wagon.
However, today my parents and I were unprepared for burro feeding, and had nothing to offer. Once the donkeys realized this, they moseyed on to greener pastures.
Not only were the burros hungry, after a morning of wildlife sighting my parents and I were ready for a little lunch too. So we headed towards the town of Custer to check out their newest burger joint. En route, I made my dad stop by a prairie dog town and captured a couple more shots of these cute little rodents.
A successful day of wildlife sighting in Custer State Park!
(For more information about the park, here's a link to the 2015 Custer State Park Newsletter.)
Sharing with: Saturday's Critters