CUSTER STATE PARK, S.D. — The countdown has begun for the annual Custer State Park Bison Roundup.
The roundup is now heading into its 56th year will continue its part in drawing thousands (anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 people) to the park to see something unique. But due to current visitor numbers in the park and numbers from over the summer, park officials say they expect a higher turnout this year.
“I mean where do you get to see buffalo rounded up by horseback riding?” said Lydia Austin, the Interpretative Program Manager for Custer State Park. “It is the symbol of the west. It’s what people come to expect when they come out to South Dakota.”
On Friday, riders will bring the bison, some 1,350 strong to the Fred Matthews Buffalo Corrals to be vaccinated and for calves to receive the CSP brand.
But this year, the park has kept more heads in the herd during the summer months which translates to more bison on the plains in the winter after the November 6 auction.
According to CSP officials, over the last 10 years, the park has had about 1,400 head in its bison herd, but due to the Legion Lake fire and a couple of wet years, they’re looking to up that number by about 100.
“Since the Legion Lake fire in 2017 that burned a lot of the pine encroachment in the prairie, and so that’s opened up a lot of new grazing for the animals, so we’re able to keep a little more in the winter than we have in the past,” said Kobee Stalder, the Visitor Services Manager with Custer State Park.
Roughly 350 to 370 bison will be for sale to ranchers, meat markets or those trying to fill the freezer for the winter.
All needed to keep the herd population and other wildlife in check.
“The numbers, you know would, it would exceed the carrying capacity, so we’d be over grazed,” said Jason Gooder, the National Resources Program Manager for Custer State Park. “The you know overall plant diversity of the park would be affected, which would in turn affect you know the other other animals that are that are here elk and and so on and so forth.”