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Tag Archives: Buffalo

We spent several days driving and hiking in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in late spring. There are some fantastic views of the interior of the park from the Boicourt Overlook.

We stopped at Peaceful Valley Ranch to look around. This is also an access point for many hiking trails. Unfortunately access to the trails requires crossing the Little Missouri River. This year the water was a little high and we noticed only one car in the parking lot. As we were watching this lone female was returning from her hike.

A Panorama of the bend in the Little Missouri River.

 

There was a variety of wildlife in addition to the wild horses. This young Pronghorn was in a valley off of East River Road. We saw several males in another section of the park.

This is one of the better parks to observe to observe Prairie Dogs. The little ones were out in force.

We typically don’t see many Buffalo. The first one was on the trail to the Old East Entrance Station. The second one had an itch and we watched it for about 15 minutes as it rubbed against the hillside.

Lots of interesting rock formations around the park.

 

My wife and I love to drive the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. We usually see the same cast of characters but every once in a while we are surprised. Buffalo are of course the main attraction. In the spring you have a great opportunity to see the young. For some unknown reason the young seem to like to feed in the middle of the road thus creating a traffic jam. In the spring the bulls are hanging out by themselves or with small groups of bulls.

The second most popular attraction is the Begging Burrows. They can usually be found north of the north roundup viewing area. There were no you burros around but a number of the females looked pregnant.

We were lucky to see a number of Pronghorns but no young. A posting from the park indicated that folks started seeing the young a week after our visit.

We also saw a few deer in the park.

Prairie Dogs are common in the park.

We normally try to drive out past the park airport early in the morning. The light is good and the birds are out and about. This is a great place to see Mountain Bluebirds.

The Mountain Bluebirds have the same problem as the Eastern Bluebirds. Their house is just the right size for the Tree and Barn Swallows. It seemed there were fewer bluebirds this year because the swallows occupied most of the houses.

There were quite a few Meadowlarks around.

This was the first time we saw Upland Sandpipers in the park. We saw them on a couple of occasions. The one on the fence post was with the bluebirds.

 

Red-winged Blackbirds were around.

We stopped at the Blue Bell Lodge for a bite to eat and noticed five Turkey Vultures sitting in the trees around the lodge.

When we woke up it was a very foggy morning and looked like it might rain. After breakfast at a local cafe we tentatively decided that we wanted to hike out to the Petrified Forest. We stopped at the ranger station to check on road conditions. The roads were in good shape because their oil wells right up to the park boundary so the roads are well maintained.

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

We found the trail an as we started out we were not certain if we would go to the south or north unit of the petrified forest. The decision was made somewhat easier because there was a Buffalo standing on the trail to the north unit.

We hadn’t gone far before we ran into a couple of wild horses.

There was quite a bit of petrified wood in a relatively small area. There were petrified wood chips everywhere. I seemed a little strange  because the chips looked just like real wood.

After looking around a bit we decided to continue hiking and see if we could find the Maah Daah Hey Trail. Turned out to take a little longer that we expected but w ran into several other hikers and they indicated that the trail was well marked at all of the intersections and trail markers could be seen along the trail.

We saw a variety of wild flowers blooming on the prairie.

Toward the end of the Maah Daah Hey Trail we encountered a couple of buffalo. One wandered onto the trail ahead of us but didn’t pay munch attention to us and continue on down the trail. A second one came running after the first one but noticed out presence and made a couple of charges in our direction. We made a retreat and decided to have lunch while we waited for him to move off. We later encountered him again and he still was very interested in us. We have hiked in buffalo country quite a bit but never had a buffalo show this much interest in us.

We continued walking along what appeared to be a large plateau The trees along the area had some good color. We could see quite a ways.

 

We found the North Petrified Forest Trail and took that hopping it would take us back to our car. The trail dropped down into a large ravine with some interesting rock formations.

After climbing out of the ravine we finally reached the north unit of the petrified forest. It was far more extensive than the south unit and if you only had a short time it would be the area I would suggest you visit.

We then headed back to the car. Fortunately the buffalo was no longer on the trail. It was a great day of hiking. We managed over 11 miles for the day.

On our recent trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park we were lucky to see a variety of wildlife.

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

Mule Deer

Buffalo

Prairie Dog

Pronghorns

Wild Horses

After driving around the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park we continued on down to Wind Cave National Park. We decided to hike the East Bison Flats Trail. It is not all that difficult and is one of my favorite hiking trails in the Black Hills. In the spring it is covered with wildflowers and we always seem to find some animal bones along the trail. On this trip the bones were still on the Buffalo. A little while later we did find a collection of bones close to the trail.

More photos from Wind Cave National Park can be found on my website.

We found this large anthill along the trail.

The East Bison Flats Trail used to be marked by flimsy brown trail markers. In recent years the Park Service has replaced them with posts. Since the Buffalo love to rub against the posts they are buried deep in the ground. You can see the Buffalo tracks around this one.

There are some great views of the prairie from the trail.

 

 

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.

After photographing early in the morning we headed back to Wall and had an early breakfast at Wall Drug. First place I’ve ever encountered that refused to make sunny side up eggs. While at breakfast we check the map and decided to drive back out to the park and drive the Sage Creek Rim Road. We have been driving through the badlands for years but have never driven the Sage Creek Rim Road  other that the first few hundred yards.  According to the map we would eventually end up in Hermosa which was our destination.

It was a beautiful early fall day and the color was nearing its peak.

We saw all kinds of wildlife on the drive. We hadn’t gone far before we encountered this Bighorn Sheep ram resting at the side of the road. He wasn’t about to move so we had to drive around him.

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

As small herd of Pronghorn Antelope crossed the road in front of us.

Pronghorn Antelope

Of course there were the ever present Prairie Dogs. It seems like there are more and more of them.

Prairie Dogs

There are Buffalo in the park but they are rarely seen on the Badlands Loop Road. We see them fairly frequently on the Sage Creek Rim Road. At one point we found a large number of them in a pen. Apparently there had been a roundup but the bulls still seemed to be roaming the park.

Buffalo

We had gotten out of the car to take some landscape photos and noticed this Coyote walking along. I went back to get my long lens and, of course, he dissapeared. I went back and got my landscape lens and sure enough he reappeared in full view but he was too far away for a shot.

Coyote

While we were watching the Prairie Dogs we notice a large bird sitting out in the Prairie Dog town. It looked to be the size of an eagle but we knew it wasn’t an eagle. Later we found out it was a Ferruginous Hawk. Apparently Prairie Dogs are one of its favorite meals. They frequently sit by an active hole and wait for the Prairie Dog to emerge. We later encountered several of them flying.

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

After exiting the Sage Creek Rim Road we ended up in Scenic, South Dakota.

We then drove through the Stronghold Unit of the Badlands. This place had been used as a bombing range. When we pulled over to take this photo I also took a photo of the warning sign.

As you can tell by the title I’m a little behind in going through my photos. On the way back from our western trip we decided to drive through Custer State Park. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of wildlife we saw. I had seen coyotes in the park on an earlier visit when I noticed two of them trying to get to a buffalo calf. The adults in the buffalo herd made short work of that effort. On this day we saw two coyotes. This fellow was walking through a prairie dog town.

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

There were a few buffalo around around. The bulls were off by themselves and the females were off giving birth. The calving season was just starting and we saw less than a dozen calves.

It was early so we weren’t sure if we would see any birds around the airport but they were already starting to nest. There were a number of Meadowlarks around. The Mountain Bluebirds and the Tree Swallows were fighting it out for nesting rights.

Of course there were the Prairie Dogs.

A few Pronghorns could be found at various places in the park.

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.

Buffalo-Larmar-Valley-Yellowstone-National-Park-15-6-_2109

Buffalo-Larmar-Valley-Yellowstone-National-Park-15-6-_2111

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

Ground-squirrel-Larmar-Valley-Yellowstone-National-Park-15-6-_2098

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.

Larmar-Valley-Yellowstone-National-Park-15-6-_0503

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

Pronghorn-Antelope-Larmar-Valley-Yellowstone-National-Park-15-6-_2135

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.

Buffalo-Larmar-Valley-Yellowstone-National-Park-15-6-_2146

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

Buffalo-Larmar-Valley-Yellowstone-National-Park-15-6-_2157

Buffalo-Larmar-Valley-Yellowstone-National-Park-15-6-_2162

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.

Buffalo-Larmar-Valley-Yellowstone-National-Park-15-6-_2185

Buffalo-Larmar-Valley-Yellowstone-National-Park-15-6-_2171

Our first visit to Mammoth Hot Springs was not very successful since it rained hard the whole time we were there. We decided to drive through the park again and exit at Mammoth Hot Springs. Once again we had beautiful storm clouds in the sky. In several places we could see where the snow plows had been out earlier in the day.Yellowstone-National-Park-14-10-_0260a

We ran into a couple of herds of buffalo on the drive through Yellowstone. This fellow had been rubbing his head on a tree and ended up with a branch stuck on his horns. He looked a little forlorn.Buffalo-Yellowstone-National-Park-14-10-_0849

We stopped at Tower Fall. Unfortunately the trail to the bottom of the falls was closed so our only view was from the top.Tower-Fall-Yellowstone-National-Park-14-10-_0266

Tower-Fall-Yellowstone-National-Park-14-10-_0275

We stopped at Undine Falls for a few photos. This is actually five shots that were merged to create one large photo.Undine-Falls-Yellowstone-National-Park-14-10-_0318

While we were at Undine Falls my wife noticed what appeared to be the remains of a buffalo on the canyon rim.Bones-Yellowstone-National-Park14-10-_0895