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Custer State Park prepares for annual Buffalo Roundup

Tents are being pitched and buffalo have been moved to Hay Flats. The 56th annual Buffalo Roundup is just around the corner on Friday.

Custer State Park employees along with about 60 draw riders will corral a little over 1,350 bison to test, brand and sort. About 370 will be auctioned online on Nov. 6.

Kobee Stalder, visitor services program manager for the park, said the park has a total of 1,450 bison but does not round up mature bulls.

“The roundup is a very unique event here in Custer State Park,” he said. “There’s really not an event like it anywhere in the United States.”

Kobee Stalder, visitor services program manager for Custer State Park, speaks about the upcoming 56th annual Buffalo Roundup that will be on Friday.

Stalder said the park starts plans for the event from January.

He said about 20,000 people attend the roundup every year, but a larger crowd is expected Friday after a busy tourism season in the Black Hills. More tour buses are expected as well.

“Patience is going to be the biggest thing you can have Friday morning,” Stalder said. “There’s going to be a lot of vehicles in line getting ready to park, there’s going to be a lot of anticipation.”

Jason Gooder, natural resource program manager for the park, said the roundup allows people to see a large number of animals at one time, which is a unique experience.

He said there are three groups of riders who will help corral the bison. 

Stalder said about 80 to 100 bison will be worked Friday in the corrals and the remainder will be worked in two weeks to give them a rest.

“We don’t want to stress the animals out too much,” he said.

Stalder said calves, pregnant cows, open cows and breeding bulls will be available for purchase at auction. He said the park sees buyers from throughout the nation with a large number from the northern central region.

He said many who attend are private bison herd ranchers, buyers from the meat market, and families who want to purchase meat for the winter.

Stalder said the number from the region could change due to the drought, but all 370 will be sold regardless.

He said there isn’t a method to select which bison are selected to be sold.

“We want to make sure we have genetic diversity within our herd as well, so that’s pretty much how our methods are,” he said.

Stalder said they can currently care for about 1,000 bison over the winter.

The roundup will begin at 9:30 a.m. Friday but buffalo may not be seen until 10 a.m. Parking lots open at 6:15 a.m.

— Contact Siandhara Bonnet at siandhara.bonnet@rapidcityjournal.com

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