Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Temperature 52 Degrees, Overcast, Some Small Hail

Custer State Park, Bison Center

After we left the Visitor Center the other day as you know we decided to drive the Wildlife Loop Road. Well, when you reach the halfway point you come to a new addition to the park.

This is the Custer State Park Bison Center which opened just a week ago. The brand new center is 1,400 square feet. It cost around $5 million dollars to build. The purpose of the center is straightforward: to tell the whole story of the bison herd in the park.

It is, indeed, about the bison. So, I invite you to come and learn with us about this majestic animal.

Enquiring minds want to know – which is it? Scientists prefer to call them bison because they are closely related to European bison but only distant cousins to other animals that we call buffalo, like the water buffalo. However, both names are used interchangeably at Custer State Park.

Some other interesting facts:

Males usually stand upwards of 6 feet, while females are a little shorter at 5 feet

They can run at speeds of up to 45 mph, meaning they can cover the distance of a football field in less than 5 seconds

They can turn quickly, jump over six feet, and are strong swimmers

At Custer State Park they usually live an average of 10 to 20 years. As the male ages you will often find him off by himself apart from the herd.

Even more interesting facts about bison in general.

Bison have always lived in South Dakota but were extinct in the wild by the time the Custer Game Sanctuary was formed in 1912.

So were did the Custer State Park herd come from? That’s our next topic.

Realizing that the bison was becoming extinct a few ranchers, like the Dupree Family, in the 1800’s rounded up seven bison calves and brought them back to their ranch to raise as a protected herd.

After Dupree’s death in 1898 Scotty Phillip purchased the Dupree herd saving them from slaughter. By the time Scotty Phillip died in 1911 the herd had grown to hundreds. Thirty six of this herd would become the start of the Custer State Park herd. Staff constructed 40 miles of fence to keep the bison contained with the park boundaries.

The bison thrived within the confines of the park and quickly grew to 2,400 animals. But the size of the herd continued to grow to an unmanageable size.

Each year the herd is culled during the

annual bison roundup. The goal is to maintain the herd at a level that the range can sustain. In addition at this time health checks are done on each animal.

Part of the corral complex into which the bison are herded. The roundups began in the 1920’s and at first the staff harvested animals for meat processing.

The first annual roundup with the intent to auction took place in 1965/66


There you have it, a glimpse at bison in general and the management of the bison herd at Custer State Park. I found the Bison Center with its wealth of information very educational. I came away with a whole new understanding of the bison and the bison management program at Custer State Park. Again another great day since I came away able to say I definitely learned something new.

Thanks again for spending some time with us.  It’s always great to be able to share our story with family and friends. Comments? Feel free to share them with me. And always remember, cherish every moment of every day that God gives you and live those moments to the fullest.

Our continuing mission remains the same: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have not been before


  1. This was so interesting! From how the Custer SP herd started to the meat production (even during WWII) and to the current day Buffalo Roundup and auction. I would love to attend something like that. And to think this center opened only a week ago. You must be living right!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post. I’m with you I would love to be here when there is a roundup. We saw a video of the last one and it was awesome! And a bonus was the first weekend after the Center opened entrance to the park was free. Have a great day.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad the Dupree family and other ranchers recognized the need to save these big beasts. I was so fascinated with their slow lethargic movement but also recognize their ability to get up and go. When we get home I’ll look for the pictures we have of Momma, Poppa and baby Bison and one rolling in the dust. The Bison Center looks interesting. Thanks for sharing your day with us, again bringing back wonderful memories. Enjoy your time.


    1. I’m glad the blogs are bringing back such wonderful memories. Isn’t it amazing all it took was one individual willing to do something and the bison were saved. My hat’s off to him. Have a great time at your summer home.


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