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Buffalo Roundup Draws Huge Crowd

September 26, 2011, 6:16 PM by Derek Olson

Buffalo Roundup Draws Huge Crowd
CUSTER STATE PARK, SD - It's like a scene out of the Old West. Picture a herd of more than 1,200 buffalo charging across the prairie.

Droves of people come from near and far to take in the sights and sounds of Custer State Park's Buffalo Roundup. But it hasn't always drawn the huge crowds it does today.

"When I started 21 years ago, there were probably 500 or 1,000 people who came. It wasn't a big event," program manager Gary Brundige said.

On Monday, more than 14,000 visitors showed up for the event. That's more than 10 people for every bison.

"That's what people come to Custer State Park to see. They come to see the free ranging buffalo," park superintendent Richard Miller said.

Although the Buffalo Roundup has become a major tourist attraction, officials here say its main purpose is still herd management.

"The main objective of the roundup is really to bring them in so that we can sort off sale stock, sort off our surplus animals for the auction," Brundige said.

"We'll bring the herd in.  We'll brand the calves; vaccinate.  We'll test the adults and we'll do pregnancy test and fertility test," Miller said.

On top of generating funds for the State Parks Department, the auction keeps herd numbers at a sustainable level.

"The grass that we grow is what we use to feed those animals year round. So we need to bring the numbers down to what we're projecting we'll be producing forage wise," Brundige said.

All this is done in the hopes that the herd will stay healthy and keep bringing in herds of people.

"It is not only good for us, for the park, but it's good for the Black Hills community," Miller said.

By all measures, this year's roundup was a success. That means no one was injured and the herd made it safely into the corral.

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