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Wind Cave to celebrate its relationship with bison

HOT SPRINGS (AP) — Wind Cave National Park is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its relationship with the American bison — an animal that some say saved the southwestern South Dakota park.

The last of the bison native to the area was killed in 1881, more than two decades before Wind Cave was declared a national park in 1903, the Rapid City Journal reported.

By 1910, the idea of converting Wind Cave to a state or local park was being considered. "It (Wind Cave) is not in the same league as Yellowstone," then-Interior Secretary Richard Ballinger said.

At the same time, a group called the American Bison Society was seeking to start a herd in South Dakota. They surveyed three areas and chose Wind Cave.

"It was a decision that certainly set the course for Wind Cave National Park to become what it is today," said Tom Farrell, the park's current chief of interpretation.

In November 1913, the 14 bison that would form the foundation of the current herd were shipped by rail from the Bronx Zoo in New York to Hot Springs and then by truck and wagon to the park.

Today, the park maintains a herd of about 450 bison and also has helped start herds in other parks and tribal areas. While Wind Cave is at its heart a park with an extensive cave system, it also is much identified by its diverse wildlife collection, which also includes elk and pronghorn.

Events including a hike, a concert, and an arts and craft fair are planned Friday and Saturday at the park and in Hot Springs to celebrate the anniversary.