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Friday, June 5, 2009

Bison bison bison bison

Why so many bison? Because there were babies! Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! And you know how much I like animals, so this was the best. Of course, most of us know what a bison looks like, so it may be difficult to imagine their calves are cute. But here you see they are.

And at some point, they quit looking like fuzzy little caramel lambs and assume their adult conformation, and you’d better respect them, but when they are calves, forget it. You just want to cuddle them all up.

Presumably the deer and antelope also had babies, but not as recently, so that you really couldn’t tell them from the adults anymore. They weren’t as placid about our presence, although we didn’t seem to bother them much, either. They would bound across the road and regroup right next to the car, then move on.

Bison, on the other hand, will stand there cropping and pooping indefinitely, which is why we have lots more pictures, close up of bison, than antelope and deer and prairie dogs. By the way, be sure to click on these photos to enlarge them, and then scroll around. There's a lot more to see than in the smaller picture.

One reason we got to see so many animals is, we waited. If we saw a pullout, we parked and shut off the engine. Within a few minutes, we'd see animals in the treeline, and then they'd come out and go about their business. And sometimes, when they'd congregate on the road, we'd just stop and wait. I mean, hello! It's a wildlife loop. What are you doing there if you don't want to dawdle along and gawk at animals? In a hurry? Take a main road. We suspect some of the people who blew their horns and swerved crazily around us and the wildlife were the same kind of people who have to have the whole pool for themselves and their spawn 24/7. Anyway, their loss if they can't take the time to enjoy nature's gifts.

There are actually some animals in Custer State Park even more gregarious than bison, and those are the burros. They are pretty much wild now, but they are descended from the burros who used to work in the park, hauling visitors up a mountain to see the view. A paved road put an end to that, and the burros were turned loose, and that’s a pretty good life for them. They have no fear of people, and will stick their heads right in your car windows.

We had two at once, and Stella took quite an exception to this, screaming bloody murder from the back of the van, from which she could see, hear and smell them quite well. The burros have heard it all before, and continued their investigation undisturbed by her yowling. We didn’t feed them, but learned they will eat pretty much anything, including pizza. Vegetables are recommended by the park rangers, and you can pet them, too. We saw two pregnant mares and a couple of little ones we assumed were on the young side, and they are all just adorable and tame as can be. If you get there, take some carrots along and make friends.

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