Where do the buffalo roam? In South Dakota! I let out a huge gasp when I saw the first one, a giant of a beast, as we rounded the corner to Custer State Park. Little did I know how many more were to come. Of course I had on my telephoto lens at first thinking they would all be a long way away, but actually some of them were fairly close to the road. I was pretty excited to get this close up portrait.
Custer State Park is home to 1,300 North American Bison, commonly known as American Buffalo. At 6 feet tall and more than 2,000 pounds, they are considered the largest native terrestrial mammal in North America. With so many big beasts so close, I had to use a smaller diameter lens to get a shot of the herd in its environment.
There were once millions of bison, but by 1900 less than 1,000 bison remained on the continent. In 1914 the park purchased 36 bison to start its herd and it grew to over 2,500 by 1940. Today they have a round-up each year, which I would love to witness, it must be quite a sight and sound. The bison are corralled and sorted to adjust the size and structure of the herd to ensure the park has only the amount of bison it can support over a winter. The others are auctioned.
This time of year, I was able to observe the herd as they nurtured many young. I followed one bison and her calf (with my lens, from a vehicle, I’m not some kind of stealth cowgirl you know) for some time trying to capture the interaction between them.
If you happen to be in the South Dakota area, round-up this year takes place on September 26th.