CUSTER STATE PARK, S.D. — The first “Lil Cinnamon” is here.
“We’ve had ’em earlier than this and we’ve had them later than this,” said Lydia Austin, the Interpretive Programs Manager for Custer State Park.
Every year around this time, Custer State Park welcomes more bison calves to its herd.
The bison rut, or mating period, starts in late July or early August and nine months later, you get what they call “Lil Cinnamon.”
Planning for their arrival starts at the annual Buffalo Roundup.
“This is when we vaccinate them, brand them and we actually check on the pregnancy of our bison, so we’re able to tell who’s pregnant, who’s not, and kinda judge from there and we also kinda know the time frame, so we have a good general of when the bison are going to be born,” Austin said.
This year, the park is estimating that it can sustain 400 to 450 calves. That number is up this year, due to increased rains in the last few years.
“Based on how much rain and snow we have, we can gauge how many animals our park can sustain,” Austin said.
If you are planning to visit the park to see the calves, the optimal time is coming.
“The best time to come see them is early May, that’s when most of ’em are out, so you’re going to start seeing them all over the place,” Austin said.
But coming to visit comes with its warnings.
You might think that the baby bison are cute and cuddly – and they are – but park officials say that those visiting the park and anywhere near bison need to follow the rule of thumb.
What’s the rule of thumb? If you are near a bison and your entire thumb does not cover that bison, you’re probably too close.
“Still give them the distance though,” Austin said. “Moms are usually much more agitated this time of year, they’re very protective so make sure you give them their distance when you come out.”
Keep your eyes peeled for a sprinkle of cinnamon throughout the herd.