Bison rut presents unique opportunity for viewing from safe distance
CUSTER STATE PARK, S.D. — Custer State Park is a wonderful destination for visitors and residents hoping to get a look at wildlife and now is the perfect time.
Between July and August, visitors can get a look at the local bison during the peak of the rut, or the mating season. During this time mature bulls can become very aggressive in competing for mating opportunities, and it is a perfect time to see bison herds in the park.
This year, the park has about 600 breeding age females and 91 breeding bulls. One habit of mating bulls is tending, where bulls will pick a cow to mate with and will not leave her side.
“A lot of times the bulls are just trying to stick with that cow, so if that cow goes to run, he’s gonna stick right by her side,” said Mark Hendrix, the resource manager at CSP. “So a lot of times we’ll have a few fender benders in the park just cause that bull wants to stick with that cow.”
It is highly recommended to stay between 25 to 100 yards away from the bison…or use the rule of thumb. Using the rule of thumb, you would put your thumb over an animal in the distance…if your thumb does not cover the entire animal, you are too close, and should move away immediately. Safety is paramount, and as always, it is best to leave nature undisturbed and keep your distance.
“You want to be safely in a car, or have some structure between you and the bison,” said Lydia Austin, interpretive programs manager at CSP. “Playing dead just puts you on the ground where you can get run over, unless you have luck behind you.”
Although July and August are the peak times for the rut, it actually begins in June and extends into September, so there is plenty of time to catch bison herds in the wild.