Saturday, May 2, 2009

Finding The Great White Buffalo

I've been hoping to make the point that there is much to do here in the Rapid City area of South Dakota. So when Chicken-Gold Mike wrote to say the Caribou were walking past the cabin at lunch the other day, I started to think I should show you what you might be able to see around here in the way of Wildlife. I'm not sure there is a BETTER than Alaska destination, but if there is a second best destination, it just might be right here. So if time and budget won't permit an Alaska trip, give South Dakota try.

I have reported that we are staying at the Hart Ranch just outside the city. Everything is within a reasonably short trip from here and to prove the point we set out on this, our last day here, to see what we could find in the way of wildlife around here. We set a 10 mile radius from the campground/ranch as our search area. I think you're gonna be amazed what we found. I know I am!

For starters, I finally found the animal I have been trying to find my whole life. It was an eye popper that made us gasp when we first spotted it. THE Great White Buffalo. A sacred image to the Indians, the mere appearance of the White Buffalo in old western movies could stop stampedes, bring an abundance of food and wildlife to the starving, stop warring factions in their tracks, save the dying. This is a rare find. It alone made my day special. Very special!

We also found an Arctic Wolf:

A Grizzly Bear and her cub:

An unusual Raccoon:

And the inspiration for one of my favorite cartoons Heckle and Jekyll - Magpies:

There were lots of other surprise finds as well, as you'll see in today's slide show.

Now, just like you asked how I was able to get those incredible close up shots of the buffalo in previous posts, I know for a fact that you will surely seek the tricks of the trade that let me capture these truly amazing wildlife shots, like of the Arctic Wolves and the Black and Grizzly Bears. Oh I suppose I could try to keep it a secret, but I'm big on helping you get some good shots of your own, so I'll share. You get close to the wild and potentially dangerous animals by trying to blend in as best you can. I often completely disguise myself to look as much like them as possible. Like this:

For the wolf shots, Abby and I both become masters of disguise. Working with Abby, the "human scent" is diminished and the canine bonding consideration is brought to bare (or is that bear). Anyway, it works. Every time. Mike, please note that Abby also chooses to wear her camouflage bandanna on such occasions. When you keep the dog properly disguised, even if it barks at , say for example, caribou, when the animals look around they cannot see a dog and so assume it was merely a mating grunt or something like that that they actually heard, thus the "herd" does not run away before the picture can be taken. Sure hope this helps!

And with bears, it is important to give what you get. If they look in the car windows at you, "lookem" right back and snap the shutter!

Now, did we really find all these critters within 10 miles of the ranch in South Dakota? Yes we did. Did we find them in a zoo? No we didn't! Did we find them wild and out in the open like the wildlife in Northern Canada and Alaska? Well, sort of! The animals were not caged, but they were "contained." Where could we have found such a wild diversity of wildlife. Welcome to Bear Country USA. This is a mostly open range wildlife park. You drive your car through, windows up, doors closed. These are wild animals. You do not feed them, You do not tease them. This ain't no petting zoo, honey child. And the bears? There are well over a hundred of them. As you drive through they may be behind you, beside you, and in front of you all at once. They can look right in your window just as you are looking out at them. Unnerving, but cool! They are BIG. You can be within inches of all of the animals except the mountain lions which have been screened from open access because of a previous unfortunate accident. That still works for me. Being right next to the wolves and the white buffalo just made my day!

Travel and photo Tip of the Day: Funny is funny ( he said hopefully), but photographing wild animals is no laughing matter in reality. Be careful. Don't get too close. And remember to respect your subject. Getting out of its way may be more important than getting the shot. Besides, it's amazing what can be done in Photo Shop!

Here's a slide show of a day in the preserve park:

6 comments: said...

very nice, brings back memories of last summer. We saw the bear cubs at the bear park. stayed at Rushmore shadows. Apparently there is a walking trail around Devils tower which we were not aware of at the time. Good photo shots, take the first dirt road on the right as you leave the parking area and you will get a better view. We tow a 2006 Chevy Van Express 1500 AWD with a Remco pump. I'm waiting on my 4th pump delivery so we can go to Calif. Possibly you could elaborate on your modifications to the Van in your current blog. Safe travels.

Greg said...

Robinson- our Quigley Van was converted to true 4x4 at Quigley Motors in Manchester PA. It's what they do. Check out previous post at
There is a link to Quigley Motors on that post. Check them out. If you have any questions, call our friend Larry Yates at the company. He'll be happy to discuss anything you want to discuss I think- he's a good guy. Be sure to tell them we "sent you". The site is excellent and will probably take care of your curiosity. We have also done several other posts on the Quigley you can find by using the archives for 2008.

Greg said...

Yes, Robinson, there is a walking path around the base of Devil's Tower. We won't be going through Wyoming this trip as we must pick up our last state of North Dakota. Tomorrow!

bob said...

Greg, I noticed you are using the coastline toad cover and not a tow shield. I am considering one for my smart car. Does it prevent knicks and dents and broken windshield and headlights and not just keep the dirt off?

Greg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg said...

bob, bob, bob, you asked the 64,00 dollar question! The Coastline Cover will protect your toad from EVERYTHING- windshield, headlights paint job, roof damage, radiator damage! Personally, I may not go to Alaska again without it. I did the first time and I called them and had them send me one in Ninilchik before I headed home. I already had damage that one of their covers would have totally eliminated. We first used one on our first toad- a Honda Odyssey. When we traded vehicles to the Quig, they didn't have a pattern so we went to California, where the "factory" is and had one made custom. Please- call and ask for Gloria- tell her we sent you to them and asked her to tell you how she might be able to help you out as the smart car may not have a pattern in stock yet.The cover is worth every penny and then some! I know the people now who make them and they are consummate professionals! Ask for Gumecindo to make your cover. He is a simple Spanish man who works hard and does simply amazing work for you! My cover is on now. My cover is on whenever the weather is bad, the highway is bad, the travel is on known risky byways. Having it and not using it is just asking for trouble. Alma stitched our cover and she is a real sweet heart as well. These people KNOW what they are doing. There product is second to NONE!When we traded first tow vehicle we sold the old cover to the first person we met with the same vehicle who we told we were going to sell it...
The cover is simple and quick ON and simple and quick OFF- with a fold-down windshield feature for when a fast breakaway may be required. A fantastic product!!!