We love Custer State Park – the mountains, the forests, the lakes, the scenic drives and the wildlife! Custer has one of the world’s largest publicly owned bison herds (bison/buffalo – I tend to call them buffalo although they are technically bison). There are over 1,000 buffalo! They round them up at the end of the summer to check on their health and to thin the heard (some are sold at an auction in November).
You can usually see the buffalo somewhere along the 18 mile wildlife loop in Custer State Park. We knew the loop took about an hour to drive (even longer if we stop to watch animals) so we headed out to drive the loop about an hour before sunset. We hadn’t seen many buffalo and as we were nearing the end of the loop, we finally spotted some! One buffalo was in the middle of the road facing our car. Usually the buffalo are busy eating grass and they ignore the cars. But this buffalo was odd – it was staring us down, not moving and we felt it seemed a bit aggressive. We sat back and waited – we knew it would move. But it didn’t. It wasn’t interested in grass. It was interested in a standoff!
We sat for around 15 minutes and it didn’t move. This was odd because the other buffalo were happily wandering and eating grass:
We had a few cars show up behind us and we all just waited. We weren’t going to get any closer and I doubt the people behind us wanted to get closer.
Chris was starting to get a little worried – it was getting dark and there wasn’t going to be a lot of traffic on the wildlife loop at this time. We just needed a car to come from the other direction and maybe that would convince this buffalo to wander back into the grass.
Finally! A car arrived from the other direction and the buffalo realized it probably needed to move along:
As we watched the buffalo move out of the road we realized why it was looking so aggressive:
It wasn’t a HE – it was a SHE and she was protecting her babies! Notice in that video how the babies were actually resting in the grass and they stood up only once the mama started to move along!
What a really cool moment! I’m so glad we didn’t try to get any closer to the mama buffalo. She was ready to fight the FJ over her babies!