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Animals in the park are wild and unpredictable. Do not feed the wildlife. When you feed animals they may become dependent on handouts and fail to survive the winter. They also become attracted to highways where they can be struck by passing vehicles.
Be aware that rattlesnakes are sometimes found in prairie dog towns and other areas of the park. Bison also frequent prairie dog towns. Bison are amazingly fast and quick! They can run 35 mph, may weigh a ton, and have horns! Stay a safe distance (at least 100 yards from a bison) from them and all wildlife.
To protect your pet and park wildlife remember: pets are not permitted in the backcountry which includes areas near roadways and most trails. They are permitted in the visitor center area and campground and on the Elk Mountain and Prairie Vista Nature Trails. Pets may not be left unattended and must be on a leash at all times. Be aware that ticks are common in high grass. They may affect you and/or your pet.
When driving park roads, obey all speed limits. They are strictly enforced to protect you and the wildlife. Vehicles (including bicycles) must be on the roadways at all times. Off-road driving or bicycle riding is prohibited.
Winter driving conditions, poor visibility, and high speeds create hazardous driving conditions at Wind Cave National Park during winter months. At this time of the year, especially in snowy conditions, wildlife patterns change. It is not uncommon to find bison along highways licking salt used on roads outside the park and deposited inside the park by passing vehicles. Accidents involving large wildlife have the potential to cause serious injuries to drivers and their passengers. Studies show the best way to reduce these types of accidents is for drivers to slow down.
“Encountering a bison at night on the road is like driving toward a black hole,” said Vidal Davila, park superintendent. “If your headlights don’t pick up their eye reflection, they are very difficult to see and nearly impossible to see in poor visibility. Each winter, rangers see an increase in accidents involving vehicles and wildlife caused primarily by people driving too fast on park roads. While we have not had any serious visitor injuries, in the last five years 47 large animals, primarily bison, were killed as a result of motor vehicle accidents. Sometimes even driving the posted speed limit is too fast for conditions and people need to slow down.”
Did You Know?
Fire is an important factor in protecting the prairie. Historically, fires burned across the prairie every 4 to 7 years. Fires burn the small trees that would otherwise march across the prairie and turn the grasslands to forest.