Taken from a S.D. Office of Tourism press release
PIERRE, S.D. – From five spared animals that once were nearly extinct to a substantial 1,300 head today, the collection of buffalo at Custer State Park has swelled to one of the largest publicly-owned herds in the world.
Gov. Mike Rounds invites you to catch a glimpse of those majestic beasts at the 45th Annual Buffalo Roundup in CusterState Park on Sept. 27.
Thousands of spectators gather each year for the weekend’s events, which include an organized stampede of buffalo and an arts festival. The roundup of the free-roaming herd for branding and vaccination begins at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 27. Parking begins at 6:15 a.m. and closes at 9 a.m. The arts festival, featuring Western and Native American entertainment, artwork and South Dakota-made products, is Sept. 25-27 near the State Game Lodge in CusterState Park.
“Watching buffalo in their native habitat is an unparalleled experience. From the arts festival to the roundup itself, visitors and spectators will enjoy the unique opportunity to celebrate a unique part of South Dakota’s heritage,” said Richard Benda, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism and State Development.
Benda said the Buffalo Roundup is an important reminder of South Dakota’s role in preserving buffalo.
Standing six feet tall, running at speeds of more than 40 miles an hour and weighing nearly 2,000 pounds, buffalo once filled the unsettled plains of South Dakota. In the early 1800s, an estimated 60 million bison roamed North America’s prairies, but only a handful remained by the close of the century.
Two South Dakota ranchers are credited with helping save the species. Fredrick Dupree spared five buffalo from a hunt in 1881; over the next decade, he built a small herd. Dupree sold the animals to FortPierre rancher “Scotty” Philip, and the herd grew to more than 1,000 head. Several of Philip’s buffalo became the foundation of the CusterState Park herd.
The Buffalo Roundup is not only an entertaining event for spectators, but is also important for the health of the buffalo and grasslands of CusterState park.
“Testing, branding and vaccinating the herd each year is essential to maintaining a strong and healthy herd for the future,” said Craig Pugsley, visitor services coordinator at CusterState Park. “Managing the size of the herd also ensures that we do not overgraze the grasslands in the park.”
Footage of the 45th annual event will be available on www.TravelSD.com . Visit gfp.sd.gov for more information.
For the second year in a row, the Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival has been named one of the Top 100 Events in North America by the American Bus Association.
The annual Buffalo Roundup is an important step in preparing the herd for the buffalo auction held each November. Surplus buffalo that cannot be supported by Custer State Park’s grasslands are sold at the auction.
The Roundup is a continuation of efforts to preserve and protect buffalo in South Dakota for future generations.
Buyers from across the country attend the annual buffalo auction in November. Buffalo are purchased by public and private buyers to start herds, supplement existing herds or for table fare.
Custer State Park encompasses 71,000 acres.