South Dakota auction offers Live Bison, YOU CAN BUY ONE!

Bison For Sale!

  • Live Bison are typically transported to expand herds in other parts of the country – the auction is a 54-year-old tradition at Custer State Park
  • Wild live Bison range in size from 400 to 1500 pounds, depending on sex and age
  • The Bison auction program is exemplary in the world of Conservation
Mature Bison bulls in South Dakota can grow to 1,500 pounds and more at Custer State Park. Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher

Wildlife management is a scientific process and biologists from across the world usually admit that their job is never easy, there are so many variables. Wild game needs to eat to stay healthy and for Bison, their ability to stay healthy is based on the vegetation production on the range, the prairies. For every day of my life, it seems I learn new things that are a common tradition in other parts of our great country.  I learn that conservation can take on many forms.

At Custer State Park in South Dakota, Resource Program Manager, Mark Hendrix says, “Our range prairies – where the Bison roam, are comprised of mixed grasses. In our 71,000 acres of the park, about 30,000 acres are used by the Bison. To assure there is enough food for healthy Bison and to help promote the continued expansion of native animals like the Bison, we cull our herd to maintain a wintering herd of about 950 animals.”

Hendrix adds, “In September each year, we assure all our Bison are tagged. The calves receive a Bangs ear tag, the bulls receive a small steel ear tag. All have been vaccinated as calves to assure they are disease-free and we follow up by conducting a blood test on each Bison.  Then, based on the number of calves born each year, we offer animals for auction. This helps keep the animals of the park and the range grasses healthy for survival, and the species has the benefit of expanding, as well.”

Winter herds of up to 950 Bison are among management goals for healthy herds at Custer State Park, South Dakota; Numbers vary each year based on range vegetation production. Forrest Fisher photo

Perhaps the management of animals is absolutely best when designated species can be removed in this way. In some states, wildlife management permits for hunting wild game are offered for sale to help regulate the population numbers of a particular species and concurrently, there is hunter adventure. Typically, there is also a highly beneficial economic impact. With hunter permits, however, it is not always possible to achieve the designated management goals and for many species with permit quotas, there is NO NEED to expand those species elsewhere.  In Custer State Park, the practice of healthy Bison herd management is an assured process with a proven track record.

Custer State Park provides the opportunity to expand the Bison herd to regions of the country where Bison were once plentiful and need help for herd restoration.

After talking with Mark Hendrix, I believe the Custer State Park Bison management program is exemplary. The program is above-board, procedurally consistent and fully operational.

Each November, Custer State Park provides between 200 and 500 head of live Buffalo for public auction. Buyers and spectators from around the United States come to watch and participate in the annual auction. The live Buffalo are typically purchased to supplement an existing herd, to start a herd, or for consumption.

These are healthy two-year-old breeding bulls, tagged for identification, age and for auction at Custer State Park in South Dakota. Custer State Park Photo

The auction at the park’s Visitor Center will provide live and online bidding as the 2019 Fall Classic Bison Auction opens on Saturday, Nov. 2, where approximately 432 head will be available for sale. The on-site and online auction will begin at 10 a.m. (Mountain Daylight Time). The Custer State Park visitor center is located 15 miles east of Custer on Highway 16A, near the junction of the Wildlife Loop Road and Highway 16A. 

This year’s offerings include 25 mature bred cows, 32 mature open cows, 20 two-year-old bred heifers, 20 open two-year-old heifers, 83 yearling heifers, 70 heifer calves, 104 bull calves, 52 yearling bulls, 11 two-year-old breeding bulls, and 15 two-year-old grade bulls.

“Due to excellent range conditions and high calving rates, the park has a larger quantity of animals to offer this year,” said Chad Kremer, Bison herd manager. “The change to a video auction rather than a live auction has also been positive. It reduces the stress on the buffalo and expedites the entire process.”

A review of recent Bison auction records shows that the Bison calves weigh 300-400 pounds and cost an average of $1600-$2000; the mature cows weigh 800-1100 pounds with a cost of $3200-$4000 each while mature bulls weigh as much as 1500 pounds and cost an average of $3500-$4700.

For the past 54 years, the park has made surplus Bison available for sale to the private sector. A significant amount of park revenue results from the Bison sale and goes toward continued operations of the state park system. The live internet auction is now going on its eighth year and has helped reach buyers who wouldn’t have been aware of the auction in the past.

Bison For Sale!  The annual Custer State Park auction provides an opportunity for Bison herd expansion to many areas of the country. Forrest Fisher Photo

“The average cost of the Bison is about $2000 or so,” said Mark Hendrix. Simple math shows financial benefit for the park. When it is possible to help keep wildlife healthy, expand a dwindling wildlife resource for use elsewhere, and help support the programs and budget of the park staff, everyone wins.  

In the past, the Bison have been used to start or expand herds in Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and elsewhere. The purchased Bison must be removed by Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019.  Hendrix added, “Folks that are aware of the auction arrive prepared to transport the animals at their own expense. Some states require special permits, certifications, and tests before transport, we can help with that.”

For additional information about the upcoming Bison auction, contact Custer State Park at 605-255-4515 or email questions to  For the auction brochure and live videos of available live Bison stock in the auction, please click here.



  • Join Up To Be Part of a DINO-DIG
  • You Might Meet a T-Rex….FACE-to-FACE
  • Learn that We Live Among Much History

By Rich Creason
The rain began. Slowly at first, then turning into a torrential downpour. The water started running over the top edge of the high bluff along the river. As it ran downward, it washed dirt away forming small grooves in the bluff wall which became larger as the erosion continued, eventually forming several large gullies leading to the river below. The water level in the river rose and quickened, carving away the base of the hillside and allowing more earth to be washed away.

The storm eventually ended and the sky cleared. The local rancher rode his horse across his land surveying the damage. As he rode along the bluff, he noticed a large, dark object protruding from the hillside. Closer examination revealed it to be a bone of some type. The rancher took his find to a nearby museum and was informed he had found a dinosaur bone!

He did not know that before his cattle fed on this pasture, a small herd of 30 or 40 duck-bill dinosaurs grazed along his riverbank. The huge creatures were unaware in the not so distant future, they would all be extinct. The Edmontosaurus annectens were around 30 foot long, weighed four metric tons, and walked on either two or four legs depending on their current activity.

65 million years ago they were plentiful, eating grasses and other plants with their huge mouths, containing hundreds of teeth which were constantly being replaced. Now, the fossilized bones, teeth, and other parts of these giants can sometimes be found in the western part of the U.S. and Canada, usually beginning as a chance find such as the rancher riding by. Some of these bones can also be found on display in the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Each year, the Children’s Museum takes a trip to the far northwest corner of South Dakota to the tiny town of Faith, population 500. Near this town, the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton named Sue was found. This is one of the most complete T.rex skeletons ever found. Another T.rex skeleton called Bucky, found near this town, is now on exhibit in the Children’s Museum. Then, another one was found here, but we were going to this area to search for the remains of the duck-bill dinosaur.

Early last year, my wife, Susie, and I heard about the “dino dig” on one of our frequent visits to the Museum. Members (and also non-members) are invited to join staff at the dig site in South Dakota. For a reasonable fee, we signed up for one day of dinosaur fossil hunting. We were taught how to dig the bones properly, do all the paperwork involved with documenting where each piece was found, and how to actually get each item out of the ground carefully and protect it for its long trip back to Indianapolis.

We enjoyed last year so much we signed up for a five day dig this year. We arrived in Faith on July 10th and checked into the Prairie Vista Inn, the same place we stayed last year. The rooms are large, inexpensive, and extremely clean. Owners Roxanne and Terry Ensz greeted us and even remembered us from the year before. Shortly after we checked in, the Museum van loaded with our fellow dinosaur hunters pulled in, they had flown into the Rapid City airport. Most were from the central Indiana area, but there was one lady from Boston and a couple from New Hampshire. We had about eight total. Dallas, William, and Michelle, Museum staff members, and Jayne, a volunteer, would be supervising our digging. Nicole, another Museum staff was on site the week before we arrived, but had to return to Indy. Cindy, a local EMT from the Faith Ambulance Service, also joined us to look after our health, treat bug bites, bandage blisters, and take care of other, hopefully, minor problems.

Everyone present had been on numerous digs in previous years. My wife and I were the “rookies,” having been here only once before. Later in the week, a few more diggers showed up including Shelley, an administrator at the Museum, and Will, her son. Victor, another dinosaur expert, unfortunately had to stay back at the Museum so the visitors there had someone to answer questions.

Monday morning, we loaded our gear and coolers full of ice water, and headed for the dig site. Due to the extreme heat possible and the exertion required to dig all day, staying hydrated was a necessity. About a block out of town, we left paved road. We then traveled a gravel road to the ranch cutoff which was mostly dirt, maneuvered around a washed out bridge, through several barbed wire gates, crossed cattle guards, followed two wheel tracks across pastures, jumped gullies and finally arrived at our destination.

It looked the same as last year. There was a long structure covered with tarp to give us some shade. Underneath was a dirt ledge with flagged off sections so the finds could be accurately mapped. Since all of us had been here before and knew what to do, we each grabbed a good looking spot and started digging. Our tools consisted of clam shuckers, a small, wide, dull blade used to open clams and dig dinosaur bones, Exacto knives for fine digging, paint brushes for dusting off bones, and bottles of very liquid super glue (like water) called Paleobond. This was used to patch the numerous small cracks in the bones. The bones are very brittle and have to be glued often during the digging process.
We dug carefully with our clam shuckers until we heard a “crunch”. This is the sound when the blade hits a bone.

Then we had to clear all the dirt surrounding the find with the Exacto knife. We left a dirt pedestal intact under the bone to support it until the find could be mapped and removed. When we reached this point, the scientific part began.
My first find was a four inch piece of rib. These are common finds and are often short because they break easily.

Before removing any bone from the ground, the fossil is given a number, pictures are taken, the grid number where it was found is recorded, and the date, name of collector, body part (if known) and other pertinent information, is written down. Then a one meter square frame, divided into 10 square centimeter squares, is placed over the find and its location is drawn on graph paper. When this is finished, the bone is carefully lifted from its multi-million year old home, still on its dirt pedestal, and wrapped in several layers of paper towel to cushion and protect it, then wrapped again in aluminum foil, and taped shut. The tape is then labeled with name, numbers, etc. to correspond with the paperwork. The package is then placed in a large plastic container for its journey back to the Children’s Museum.

In our five days of digging, Susie and I found, dug, and documented 22 bones including five rib pieces about four to eight inches long, several pieces of vertebra from the neck to the tail, a couple chevrons (the underside of the tail), three skull elements (pieces), two jugals (cheek bone), a toe bone, and a couple of yet unidentified pieces. My best find of the week was a 28 inch rib. It is very unusual to find a piece of rib this long.

Numerous other bones were found including two femurs (the large leg bone). These were both around three feet long and took many hours to dig out. A large humerus (upper arm bone) and a large jaw bone were also found. The larger bones (including my rib piece) were wrapped in foil and then had a plaster cast applied to them before moving to help prevent breakage. These bones all went back to Indiana to be cleaned, repaired, and put on display or be used for research.

While duckbill bones are the most common finds at this site, other finds also include bones and teeth from other animals. Some of these include Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus rex, Dromaeosaurs, Oviraptors, Troodons, and Pachycephalosaurs. Bones from other non-dinosaur critters are turtles, crocodiles, champosaurs (a croc-like creature) and gar fish.

The site we dig at is called a secondary deposit. This means the animal died somewhere else, but a river or stream washed their remains into this area. All the bones are “disarticulated”. This means the skeleton is not whole. The bones found side by side are almost never from the same animal. It is estimated around 2,000 different duckbills are buried at this site.

If you think this sounds like something you would be interested in doing next year, contact the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis at 317-334-3322, or visit You can get information on “Dino Digs”, memberships, events, exhibits, or anything else you need to know about the Museum. Visit the Dinosphere to see the dinosaur fossils, displays, and touch actual bones millions of years old. You can also meet many of the staff who supervise our dino digs and try to stump them with questions you’ve always wanted to ask about dinosaurs.

From author Creason: “If you live anywhere near central Indiana, I would highly recommend getting a membership of some type to the Museum. We purchased a Premier Membership. This allows two grandparents (us), one grandchild and two guests to enjoy the attractions as often as we want, plus it includes many other privileges and discounts. Many other types of memberships are also available. With the large variety of exhibits at the Museum, you don’t even have to be a kid to enjoy visiting.”   The author may be reached at

Mount Rushmore – Independence Day Glory!

The entrance to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial offers clear signage and directions during an initial view of the grandeur of this sacred place.  Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher
Mount Rushmore is no ordinary mountain.  Visiting this sacred place in the Black Hills of South Dakota has been on our “bucket list” for a long time.  As we approached from the north driving down Highway 85, the illusion of darkness rising on the horizon – the Black Hills in the distance, was clear and beautiful. “There they are,” said my excited best friend and wife of 48 years. “They’re so awesome, aren’t they?” Added my granddaughter, Kiley Rose, a college student of environmental science and forestry, and our mentor for all things nature, especially trees and birds.

“They say the Black Hills look dark because of all the tall pine trees that grow here in this part of South Dakota,” Kiley shared. “And this area is rich in birds and animals too.” As we travelled through Rapid City and up Highway 16 (Mount Rushmore Road) on the mountain toward Mount Rushmore, there were large signs on the roadway directing where to turn, park and enjoy the view.

The views from just about anywhere on this National Monument Memorial property are spectacular. The scenes are permanently imprinted to memory, though I also took hundreds of pictures to share with family and friends back home in western New York.

The “Avenue of Flags” offers a lofted flag of every state in the United States, a symbol for freedom and citizenship as a democratic government representing the freedom of all people in this country. Forrest Fisher Photo

The sculptured faces of four of our former great presidents are carved high above in the granite stone of this majestic mountain.  Chosen by sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, visitors have a clear, spectacular image of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln as viewed left to right. For several of the people I spoke with, many simply gazing with a prolonged stare at the figures – the predominant feature of these four American leaders seems to be their eyes.

One man from Texas said, “You know something, I think their eyes offer us understanding and humility.” Another visitor overheard the onset of our discussion and shared, “I agree, their eyes draw my attention almost immediately, as if to invite discussion among each of them.” Another nearby person, a foreign lady visitor from Japan, smiled and leaned our way to say, “I think their eyes create a sense of trust, so I agree with you both, but I also think their noses are predominant.” Instantly, we all smiled at that and I brought up a short story about “smell and scent” to share with this amicable threesome.

I added, “When my family initially came up to visit the monument, we drove past the official entrance and down the hill toward the presidential “side view” of George Washington. My granddaughter and I decided to hike around the parking area access paths and with her knowledge of trees, she went directly to one of the pine trees, put her nose to the tree, smiled, and called me over.” She said, “Can you smell this and tell me what you think this bark smells like, Dziadz?” So I did and said, “It smells like vanilla.” “Yes!” She exclaimed. “This is a Ponderosa Pine tree, this odor is their distinguishing element!”

When you get up close to the bark itself, Ponderosa Pines smell like vanilla extract – something I learned from my granddaughter who is majoring in environmental science.  We never stop learning! Forrest Fisher Photo

So I returned to the group conversation and said, “Have you visited the Grand View Terrace eating area? Some people we met had been raving about Thomas Jefferson’s homemade ice cream recipe – which they serve here.  About the nose, maybe you are right – the ice cream is vanilla flavor.  You can smell it just by standing next to someone with a cone or dish of the tasty dessert.  It was crowded.”  Smiling a bit, I added, “So maybe you are right, the nose is the champion feature of these carved presidential figures!”  Everyone returned a happy face grin and we all moved on, satisfied to share a moment of observation with each other.

Though the Ponderosa pines offer the scent of vanilla and the Thomas Jefferson homemade ice cream recipe is vanilla flavor – and it is delicious, our visit to this incredible place was not ordinary vanilla.

Every visitor, there were 1000’s, appeared to be in reverent awe of the monument.  There was a soft-spoken drone of conversation in the air that hovered above the sound of the breeze, with these flags proudly waffling a soft message of freedom in the wind.  Every single state in the country has their flag displayed here.  It felt so very good to walk among the cascade of flags aptly named, the “Avenue of Flags.”

Mount Rushmore associate, Jane Zwetzig, had provided us with early advice about making sure we test the delicious ice cream.  The vanilla flavor and sweet taste is like the monument, unforgettable.

The information center is a “must-see stop” to insure you understand what to see during your day visit. Forrest Fisher Photo

A stop to the Information Center provided details about current day activities, with informational brochures and details of exhibits, they helped to plan hiking trail and exhibit visits for the day.  There are guided walks down the Presidential Trail and tours, Ranger programs, amphitheater programs, the Sculptor’s Studio, the bookstore, the gift shop and also, an audio tour.  There is also an audio tour device, a handheld wand, that can be rented for $5 and is available in four languages.

The food court is a great food stop, complete with bison burgers, bison hotdogs and a long list of other, non-meat, healthy foods and beverages.

Toward evening, the sculpture is illuminated for one hour, starting 30 minutes after sunset, and that marks the onset of the “Evening Lighting Ceremony.” The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is open year-round, except on Christmas Day (Dec. 25), from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the summer, and through 5 p.m. in the winter. The cost is FREE, except there is an $11 parking fee for cars.

At the end of the “Avenue of Flags,” there is a balcony where families gather for pictures to be cherished long into the future.

Hotel accommodations are plentiful in Rapid City, Hill City, Keystone and several other small towns nearby, including infamous Deadwood (Wild Bill Hickok – Saloon No. 10), about 45 minutes to the north.  We spent the overnight at the Gold Dust hotel in Deadwood (, recently renovated in this former western outlaw town – such a great place to visit.

For more information about the Black Hills, Badlands, Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse monument and other local sites, visit:

The busiest day of the year for Mount Rushmore? You might have guessed, is July 4th. According to manager, Lloyd Shelton, Independence Day will usually see a little more than 10,000 visitors per hour. The good news is that the park services can handle that volume and there is plenty of room.

You will find inspiration from the presidential presence with a wonderful sense of opportunity to share and absorb the energy and leadership provided from these mountain-top carvings at the memorial monument.  These elements of Mount Rushmore are unchanged, regardless of the number of visitors.  We enjoyed every moment of our visit – the people, the property, the outdoor elements of unique grandeur.  This is a great summer stop.  Upon arrival, the mystique of this special place is clearly apparent.

We drove all the way from New York State (two fun days), a long trip, and we are already planning a return visit!