Bikers and bison safety at Custer State Park

CUSTER STATE PARK, S.D. — One of the popular stops for Sturgis rally-goers is the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop.

It is a great stop for visitors hoping to catch sight of bison in the wild, but as witnessed by all when a woman approached a calf, there are real safety concerns.

A 54-year-old Iowa woman was recently attacked by a bison, after she dismounted her motorcycle to take pictures of the calf. While for some it may be enticed to tempt fate, it is something wildlife experts do not recommend or encourage. 

“Stay in your car,” said Custer State Park superintendent Matt Snyder. “You’ll be safer. With bikes, yeah you’re already exposed, so what do we do. And what we like to tell with the bikes, is to stay on your motorcycle, take a picture from a distance. You don’t need to be right up to them.”

Rut, or mating season, is ongoing and will not end until September, with that comes larger herds, and other problems.

Bulls prefer to stay with certain cows, and if separated, will rush to the cow, potentially causing accidents. As was the case this week, calves being separated from cows is also a hazard.

Cows could become very agitated, causing them to act aggressively.

“If it is a cow that’s by you, where’s the calf? Because if they’re separated, that cows gonna want to get to the calf, or the calf’s gonna want to get to that cow,” said Snyder.

The best things a person can do if caught between buffalo, is to remain quiet, calm, and to keep a distance of at least one hundred yards. Unlike dealing with mountain lions, it is best practice not to be loud or antagonistic towards bison. Snyder said,

“The worst thing they can do is rev up their motorcycle. That just agitates, mainly the cows, get more agitated than the bulls a lot of times. So, when we’ve had issues in the past, it’s a lot of times, it’s been cows that would do that. Sometimes the bulls would come up next to them, they rev it up, and they just swing their head and they knock them over. You gotta move on.”

While buffalo are one potential threat, there have been recent close calls with deer, and big horn sheep, so caution is key, no matter what wildlife you encounter.

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