Bison in the Badlands National Park
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Artiodactyla
- Family: Bovidae
- Genus: Bison
- Species: bison
- Subspecies: bison
In 1963, the Badlands received a herd of bison from Theodore Roosevelt National Park that were successfully re-introduced to the park! Now the herd of bison that call the Badlands home numbers 1,200.
Bison can get up to 6.5 feet tall and weigh up to 2,000 pounds which makes them the heaviest land mammal in North America. Don’t let their size fool you though these massive animals have a vertical leap of six feet. They can also run up to 35 mph. Bison are herbivores who spend 9-11 hours a day grazing. They ingest up to 1.6% of their body mass each day. Bison breed in the summer and carry their calves for 9.5 months. They are usually born between late March and May and are called “red dogs”, because of the orange-red color of their fur.
Every year the park has a buffalo roundup to corral as many members of the herd as they can. Babies are tagged, sick and injured bison are treated and biological samples are taken. Some members of the herd are chosen to go live on other public lands or given to other groups dedicated to preserving bison.
We saw bison every day we were in the park, but only in two areas. We were camped minutes from the Pinnacle entrance and every morning there were a couple right past the gate including a baby. Sage Creek Rim Road is the best place to see bison. It is located only a few minutes from the Pinnacles entrance and worth the drive down the very washboard road. Drive down till you reach Roberts Prairie Dog Town then turn around. Plus you get to visit the prairie dogs.
Our third day through we got stuck in a bison jam and had to wait 15 minutes for a small group of them to pass. They love rubbing up against posts and signs to scratch and that was how I got some of my favorite pics. Maintain a distance of at least 100 feet away from these magnificent beasts whenever possible. Admire in awe at the size of these beasts from a safe distance.
DO NOT try to pet or feed bison. This is how every horror story you have heard of wildlife interactions that have gone wrong have started.