Wild bison return to Badlands National Park in South Dakota. 22,000 acres of new range received four bulls. This expanded range hasn’t hosted wild bison since the 1870s.
“I was totally unprepared for that revelation called the Dakota Badlands.
What I saw gave me an indescribable sense of mysterious elsewhere.”
— Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)
Since 1963, over 1,000 bison reside on the western end of the park’s north unit. A fence, now removed, formerly blocked them from moving east. Private fund-raising (nearly $750,000) paid for 43 miles of fence in the north end of the national park. The range now available to the bison now totals 80,193 total acres, or 125 square miles.
Bison can be a rare sight at BNP, due to the old fencing. However, with the expanded range, they are now more available for public observation.
The release ceremony took place at the Pinnacles Overlook on October 11, 2019. Mike Pflaum, Badlands National Park Superintendent, and a representative from the Lakota hosted. See the release video on the Badlands National Park Facebook page.
“It’s going to be good for the health of the herd, for the genetics and it’ll be great for the health of the native mixed grass prairie which evolved with the bison on the landscape. And it’s going to provide outstanding opportunities for visitors to see and learn about the bison in their natural habitat.”
For the Native American community, this hits a personal note. Waoilon Gaddie, Oglala Sioux Tribe member, described it as a sense of redemption. “The buffalo are supposed to be extinct today, but the buffalo still live and so do our relatives.”
The Badlands and bison are both iconic of western landscapes. Together, they are a symbol of our not-so-distant past and are representative of ancestral beginnings. Archaeology and oral tradition indicate this area has been sacred ground to American Indians for 11,000 years.
Where have you seen bison in the wild?