Custer State Park Animals
The Black Hills are home to an abundant array of wildlife including elk, coyotes, buffalo, deer and more.
In South Dakota, elk are found mainly in the Black Hills. The Black Hills heard comprises around 6,000 Rocky Mountain Elk. Only South Dakota residents are eligible for an elk hunting license in the state. Rocky Mountain Elk have the largest antlers of all elk species. Antler size is an indication of male health because antlers take a considerable amount of resources to produce and carry. Elk antlers can grow to 7 or 8 points each, can have a length and spread of 4 feet, and can weigh 20 pounds each. Another elk trophy is its ivory. An elk’s top two canine teeth are called “ivories”.
Coyotes hunt in all habitats of Custer State Park. The Custer State Park coyote hunting season is open December through March.
The North American Bison, commonly known as the buffalo, are a main attraction in Custer State Park. The herd comprises 1,300 buffalo. The park uses hunting and its annual Buffalo Roundup to manage the size of the herd. The non-trophy hunting season reduces the number of cows and young bulls (primarily 2 years-old.) The season runs October through November. The trophy buffalo hunting season removes the oldest breeding bulls from the heard. The hunt begins after the non-trophy season through January. You can view buffalo in the park’s grasslands on the Wildlife Loop Drive. You also can take a buffalo safari jeep tour to go off road in search of buffalo and other wildlife.
Mountain goats are not native to South Dakota. In the 1920’s several mountain goats escaped from a zoo in the Black Hills and have inhabited the area since. The mountain goat hunting season occurs from September through December and was reopened in 2015 after the population rebounded to allow for hunting once again. The mountain goat season is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for South Dakota residents.
Pronghorns / Antelope
Pronghorns, also called antelope, can be incredibly difficult to catch, due to their incredible eyesight, stamina, and speed. They can frequently be seen along the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park, which provides ideal grasslands habitat.
White-tailed deer and mule deer are the most highly sought after big game species in South Dakota. The white-tailed deer has white hair on the underside of its tail. When it runs, the tail is flipped up and looks like a waving white flag. The black-tipped tails of the mule deer are carried down when the deer runs. Hunting remains the number one tool for managing deer populations across the state. Deer season in Custer State Park runs November through mid-December.
Mountain lions were once numerous in the Black Hills. However, the mountain lion population dropped significantly. Since the reestablishment of a breeding population, hunting season opened up again in 2005 and continues to be in effect. The hunting season runs December through March.
The Black Hills provide excellent bird watching. In terms of birds, the region more closely resembles the Rocky Mountains. Specialties that can be spotted include Ruffed Grouse, White-throated Swift, Red-naped Sapsucker, Dusky Flycatcher, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Violet-green Swallow, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Canyon Wren, Mountain Bluebird, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Pine Siskin. At higher elevations, look for American Three-toed Woodpecker, Brown Creeper, Townsend’s Solitaire, and Red Crossbill. One of the best areas for birding is the 22-mile Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway (Highway Alt 14).
Claw, Antler & Hide Company
After your adventure in Custer State Park, we invite you to stop by the Claw, Antler & Hide store and see more animals. Claw, Antler and Hide Co. is a speciality store that sells hides, furs, skulls, taxidermy, apparel, collectibles and crafts.