CUSTER STATE PARK, S.D. — On Saturday, it was National Bison Day, and Custer is known to have one of the largest publicly owned herds in the world.
Over the past few weeks, Custer State Park has been preparing for its 55th annual Bison Auction, held to maintain the herd and land.
This has included rounding up the bison, sorting and having them medically cleared. This year, to narrow the herd to approximately 1,000 bison, the park sold a little over 420 to private herd owners.
“You know, the reason we do sell our bison, is because our rangeland and the park can only support so many wildlife. So it’s all based around our bison herd. In the wintertime, we can support a little over a thousand animals, plus all the other wildlife we have in the park, the antelope, the deer, the elk. So it all goes off our range management plan,” said Kobee Stalder, Services Program Manager at Custer State Park.
Organizers say bison from all gender, weight and breeding capacities are shown and sold. For those interested in seeing the bison in person, the auction was only a short drive from the corrals.
Raising some of the best bison in the world has also drawn buyers from all 50 states, including Canada and Mexico. To make it possible for anyone to purchase from the herd, the park has been holding the auction in person and online for several years.
“We’ve been doing that for the past nine years and it’s really worked out really well,” Stalder said. “And over time, we’ve actually seen that as technology has progressed, that our internet buyers account for about half of the purchases during the auction. They go back into our resource management plan. So whether that’s our fencing needs, our timber thinning, range management, noxious weed control. All those funds generated stay right here in the park.”
The auction not only allows the park to narrow down the herd when necessary, it also brings in funds that support the park.