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Category Archives: Buffalo

We drove the Wildlife Loop several times during our visit to Custer State Park.¬† Of course the main attraction were the Buffalo. Our visit was a couple of weeks before the roundup and we were surprised to find most of the buffalo hanging out in the roundup parking lot or around the buffalo pens. That would have made the roundup easy but then there wouldn’t have been anything for the tourists to see.

We did see a number of Pronghorns during our visit. The first photo shows one chasing a female. The female had run across the road a few minutes before and he was right behind her.

No visit would be complete without a photo of the Prairie Dogs.

The burros were hanging around in the same area as the Buffalo. It’s funny, when the roundup starts the burros are always in hanging around the Buffalo but they usually head for the hills just before it starts.

Driving through in the evening we were able to see a number of deer.

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It took us a full day to drove to Dickinson, South Dakota where we stayed for the night. The next morning we drove over to the South Unit where we spent the morning driving around and getting a feel for the Park.

More photos from Theodore Roosevelt National Park can be found on my website.

It was overcast but we could see occasional glimpses of the sun. Fall was in the air and the colors were starting to change. In some places it was outstanding.

We stopped at the Prairie Dog town. In addition to the Prairie Dogs we saw a couple of Pronghorns.

Our next stop was Peaceful Valley Ranch where we notice a number of folks getting ready for a trail ride. I have to admire anyone who rides horses. It looks like a lot of money and time is involved just getting to the trail and saddling up the horses. I wouldn’t have the patience.

At Skyline Vista we noticed these strange rock formations. We think the second shot is an ancient see creature that had absorbed a lot of iron and is embedded in the rock formation. We saw this same thing at other locations in the park but this was the best example.

As we drove down the road I noticed a Buffalo back behind some rocks. I walked back to get a better look and discovered a small herd in a wash. The one hiding behind the sage brush seems to by quite interested in me so I was also keeping a close eye on it.

As we drove down from Dickinson we noticed a couple of wild horses along the highway. When we entered the park we ask about the horses and the ranger said we would see them if we were lucky. As it turned out we were lucky. For some reason we took a dirt road off toward the Roundup Horse Camp. As we came over the hill we found a small group of five horses. The group consisted of a stallion and four mares. We watched them for about a half an hour before moving on.

We then continued on the loop road finishing in Medora in the early afternoon.

We spent the evening in Lusk, Wyoming. We’ve stayed there before when departing Denver in the afternoon. We were up early headed for Custer State Park. We purchased a park sticker and dove out to the Wildlife Loop. On the way we noticed several areas damaged by fire. By the time we reached the Wildlife Loop we realized that Custer State Park had experienced a major fire. We later found out that the Legion Lake fire occurred the second week of December but did not make the news back in the Midwest. This was the same time that California was burning. Apparently it was started by a tree falling on a power line. Strong wind quickly spread the fire to large piles of tree debris that had been left from logging operations. The park has been cutting many trees to help control the Pine Beetle which is devastating the west.

As we drove through the highest point on the Wildlife Loop the trees were covered with morning frost.

The air was filled with the sounds of chain saws and tree fellers. Logging operations were taking place throughout the burn area.

The Buffalo could be seen along the road resting and feeding in the burn area. In some places the grass was just starting to turn green.

The first shot shows the burn area near the Buffalo Roundup site. The second shot shows the Buffalo Pens. Apparently the Buffalo came through the fire with only a few casualties number of the Begging Burros were severely burned and several had to be put down.

The Damage from the fire extended south into the Wind Cave National Park.

The day following the Buffalo Roundup we planned on doing some hiking out of Badger Hole. There is a nice hike over the mountains to a horse camp that I made about fifteen years ago and we were going to try it. We had a couple of false starts before getting off on the wrong trail. We finally decided it was way too hot to hike. I thought I had lost one of my camera cases at the roundup the day before so we decided to drive the wildlife loop and stop at the parking lot to see if it fell out of the car. It was also a beautiful fall day so we thought we would get some nice fall photos.

More photos from Custer State Park can be found on my website.

When we reached the Buffalo pens there were quite a few folk taking photos of the Buffalo that had been rounded up the day before. The fall colors by the pens were near peak making for some great photos.

We didn’t see the Begging Burros at their normal place and were wondering where they were. A little while later we found them wandering down the road. It took us about a half an hour to get past them. For some reason they kept wanting to walk down the middle of the road.

Just past the burrows we noticed some outstanding fall color on the hills. I had to shoot fast because the burros were coming up the road and we didn’t want to get stuck behind them again.

A little while later my wife noticed this Coyote come out of the woods and walk through a Prairie Dog town. We quickly pull off the road and started taking photos. For some reason the last few times we have been in the Black Hills we have seen Coyotes. I’ve probably hike in the Black Hills fifteen times and had never seen a Coyote until recently. This one walked up to the road and stopped. It looked both ways then crossed the road. It seemed to have more sense that most people. It stopped on the other side of the road so we could get some more photos. Notice in the second photo there is a Prairie Dog at the very top of the photo watching the Coyote.

Having taken in the Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park several times I’m beginning to question my sanity. This time we were up at 3:30am to make the drive into the park. We didn’t notice many other cars on the road and when we arrived it turned out we were 10th in line. Sunrise was around 6:50am so we had plenty of time to take a nap in the car. Generally they let the cars in just after sunrise but they let us in early and it was dark when we arrived in the parking lot. It was so dark we couldn’t find the spot we planned to put our chairs. We finally just plunked them down by the fence where we knew we would have a good view of the Buffalo. We didn’t have to wait long before the sun came up. It was generally overcast but clear on the horizon so we were able to capture a sunrise.

More photos from Custer State Park can be found on my website.

I have problems sitting or standing in one place so I wandered off to take photos and my wife grabbed a cup of coffee and headed off for her lawn chair. She was able to capture this cowboy just after sunrise.

There weren’t many cars in the parking lot as the sun hit the top of the hills.

By 7:30 the parking lot was starting to fill up.

I continued to wander around and look for photos. Smokey the Bear was in attendance. It look like he was the favorite of the adults as opposed to the kids.

 

There were long lines at the important places. They provided a nice pancake feed but we brought our own breakfast so we just had coffee. According to my wife the porta potties were not all that clean even early in the morning.

We both thought the Custer Ambulance was appropriately decorated.

We arrived at the parking lot at 6:30am and the “roundup” was not supposed to start until 9:30am. As I mentioned I can’t sit around so I continued to wander around. My wife, on the other hand, patiently sat in her chair and about the only thing she had to watch was a couple of riders go past.

The viewing area was filling up. The first shot is a rider with the north viewing area in the background. I could hear this little girl screaming from quite a ways away and went over to see what was going on. Turned out to be a temper tantrum. I can see why given the time and the lack of anything to do.

After the buffalo have been driven to the pens I like to walk over to the little knoll in the background to photograph the final drive to the pens. This year it was blocked off. Anytime someone tried to walk over there a horse rider would head them off. It took a while to figure out what was going on. As soon as I saw the line of cars driving to the area I knew that the Governor and his cronies were using the area and they didn’t want to be bothered by the riffraff attending the event. Nothing ticks me off more than government officials thinking they and their friends are better than the voters. I was heartened when I saw a couple of photographers make a break for the knoll and make it before the guards could catch them. Apparently the guards didn’t want make a scene in front of the Governor and his cronies as they dragged people away from the knoll so they let them stay. To add salt on the wound the start of the roundup was delayed 30 minutes to allow the Governor and his cronies to get in place.

They usually drive the buffalo through the area where the Begging Burros spend their time. I could see the burros standing on a hill watching events unfold. When the borrows saw what was happening they mad a dash for higher ground.

Once the drive was underway a bunch of Buffalo started to make a break for it and the riders had to try and head them off. They finally got everyone going the same direction. It was a bit dusty as 1400 Buffalo were driven past. I do have to wonder about my sanity. It was 7 hours since we headed out this morning and we watched a Buffalo Roundup that took, at best, 20 minutes if you had a good viewing point.

As the drive started I was watching this bull who was right in the way of the drive and was busy taking a dust bath. The herd was driven right past him and he didn’t pay much attention to what was going on. Apparently they don’t make much of an attempt to roundup the bulls since they can be a little on the mean side. At this time of year the rut has already taken place and most of the bulls have gone off by themselves.

As the dust settled I noticed the Begging Burrows  at the top of a ridge looking down on all of the activity.

After the Buffalo were in their pens everyone headed down to the pens where a lunch was prepared.

In the afternoon the public can watch as the park brings the Buffalo into an area and checks them and gives them shots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had made two trips on the Wildlife Loop in Custer State park but still hadn’t seen many Buffalo. After a stop at Crazy Horse Monument we drove over to Silvan Lake in Custer State Park. It’s always nice at the lake.

We were thinking of driving to Custer for Dinner but then decided that since we were going to be driving out to the Wildlife Loop we should stop at the State Game Lodge for Dinner. It was a big hit. After Dinner we once again started searching for Buffalo.

We drove out on a dirt road and did find about 25 buffalo but they were too far away to photograph. We also found a lot of Prairie Dogs. There were a large group of them clustered around a single hole.

We drove back to the Wildlife Loop and hadn’t gone far when we encountered a family of Wild Turkeys. I think this is the first time I had seen Wild Turkeys in the park.

We also encountered the Begging Burrows.

As we drove around the park there were some ominous clouds in the sky. The weather was supposed to get nasty later in the evening.

Still no Buffalo but as we neared the end of the Wildlife Loop we hit the mother load. There were probably 400 Buffalo along the road and a long traffic Jam. It took us 45 minutes to get through the herd because the Buffalo were constantly wandering across the road. You don’t want to iterate them particularity during the fall rut. As some of them passed the car they gave us a dirty look.

Success at last. The next morning we drove out again and the large herd was still in the same area.

It was early in the spring and we were surprised at the number of animals we found in the park.

This was the first photograph I have gotten of Buffalo in the park. They usually hang out in the west end of the park and we normally don’t drive out that direction.

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There were a number of herds of Mule Deer in various areas of the park.

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Several herds of Bighorn Sheep were seen. The rams were no longer with the herd and it was a little early for the lambs. I had noticed a few sheep behind a hill. As I came over the hill this one was staring right at me.

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The Prairie Dogs were around although it was very windy and cold so we didn’t see a lot of them. When we drove through in the morning they were just waking up.Prairie-Dog-Badlands-National-Park-16-3-_4776

We drove out to Custer State Park early in the morning looking for Buffalo. We did not have much luck the evening before. There were some around but they were too far away to take many photos.

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We drove through the entire Wildlife Loop without seeing a single buffalo. We decided to drive up to Wind Cave and see if we could find some there. On the previous day when we were hiking the East Bison Flats Trail we saw some in the distance.

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As we approached a turnout we found a herd of them gathered around a mud hole. Apparently it was quite the early morning attraction.

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We watched them for a while before they started wandering off then we drove back to the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park hopping to look for some more buffalo. As we were driving along we saw a fawn Pronghorn Antelope. The mother was in the process of stashing it for the day. We watched as she walked over to a brushy area before returning to a small group of females and leaving the area.

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We continued on looking for Buffalo. We found a herd along a side road. They were very close so we watched them for quite a while. Eventually I felt the car rocking and we noticed that one of them was using the car as a scratching post. We decided it was a good time to leave the area.

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After leaving the Lamar Valley we drove over the mountains to visit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Although the clouds were forming they made for an interesting sky for the wide angle shots of the Canyon.

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The highlight of the trip was seeing a large number of Bald Eagles and Osprey. They were on their nests and fishing in the Canyon. We noticed some folks with large lenses looking at something and they were watching an Osprey nest. As we watched the second adult arrived from a fishing trip and deposited it catch. It then switched places with its mate on the nest. The couple we were talking to came every day to check on the nest. At this point there were two eggs in the nest.

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We continued our hike down the North Rim Trail to the viewing stand for the lower falls. We were a little surprised that there were not more people at the viewing stand. For the first time ever we were the only folks at the viewing stand. We could see some folks on a viewing platform at the bottom of the falls on the South Rim and decided to try and find the trail to it.

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We returned to the top of the North Rim and drove over to the South Rim and Artists Point.

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It was difficult to get a photo with all of the people in the viewing area and most of them taking selfies. Selfies should be banned from National Parks.

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As we drove back on the South Rim Road we decided to stop and take the hike down the Uncle Toms Trail. We determined this was the way to the viewing stand we had seen from the North Rim. Part of the trail consists of 300 plus steep steps almost straight down. I was so intent on the view I didn’t realize that my wife was petrified the entire time she was on the stairs.

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The walk and viewing platform offered some great views from the bottom of the lower falls. On the way back up we encountered a few light showers.

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When we first drove into the North Rim area we noticed this Buffalo lounging in the dandelions. There were a few cars in the pullout space so we didn’t stop. On the way back, late in the day, he was still in the same spot.

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As we started back for Gardiner we could see that we would be encountering some bad weather. We encountered very heavy rain, sleet and snow as we drove back over the mountains.

We were up early for breakfast. Unfortunately breakfast wasn’t served until 7 a.m.. On day two our goal was to drive out through the Lamar Valley looking for Buffalo and any other wildlife we could find.

Our understanding was that you needed to be up early to see wildlife but as we started through the valley we encountered a heard of Buffalo and most of them were still sleeping or just starting to wake up. Not too different from humans.

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While I was photographing the sleeping Buffalo I noticed this Ground Squirrel working at building a nest.

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As we drove through the valley clouds were starting to form over the mountains. Most of the animals were quite some distance from the road so there were not many photo opportunities. Quite a few people had scopes which would be the best way to watch wildlife in the valley. Lots of RV’s parked in the pullover points so there were not a lot of opportunities to stop and look at the wildlife.

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On the return trip we encountered a couple of Pronghorn Antelope along the road.

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A short distance away we encountered a heard of Buffalo crossing the road. I think this was part of the heard we encountered earlier in the morning. There were a lot of calves with the heard.

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This adult and calf had the same idea and found that a rock was a good place to take care of an itch.

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The males born last year were still with the heard and were engaged in a little battle. The adult males were no longer with the heard and wouldn’t return until the fall.

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