Custer State Park buffalo roundup draws 14,000
CUSTER STATE PARK (AP) — More than 14,000 people lined the hills of Custer State Park Friday to hear the thunder and watch as more than 1,000 buffalo corralled by horseback riders in what has become a huge tourist draw for the Black Hills.
"People come from all over the world for this special connection to American history," said freelance journalist Chris Bury, who was producing a segment for the Al Jazeera network's "America Tonight."
"This is a historical spectacle," he said.
Park managers use the event, in its 48th year, as a management tool. They brand and vaccinate the animals and cull the herd in an effort to maintain a balance of bison and rangeland forage. More than 400 of the bison will be sold at a November auction that will generate about $500,000 for park operations, the Rapid City Journal reported (http://bit.ly/14OmAPv ).
The roundup is typically held on the last Monday of September, following the park's weekend arts festival. It was moved ahead of the arts festival this year.
"It was born of the idea of attracting even more people," said Craig Pugsley, visitor services coordinator for the park.
The park also offered another major change this year. The north viewing area was altered to allow for better vantage points. The fence that used to line the top of the hill has been moved to the base of the hill, providing a "natural amphitheater for people to sit and watch," Pugsley said.
The cattle guard near the hill also was moved. The changes will allow more people to watch from the north side and to be closer to the buffalo as they rush toward the corrals.
Erwin Graf and Bettina Bardill, who live near St. Moritz, Switzerland, took in New York City and Tennessee's Nashville and Memphis before coming to the Black Hills.
"We came here for the spectacle, for the buffalo, for the wildlife," Bardill said. "In Switzerland, you don't have thousands of buffalo."