Black Hills Wildlife

Mountain Lion

Black Hills Wildlife. What you need to know about our wildlife before you visit..

Let me start this off by telling you some great news about Black Hills Wildlife..

  • Mountain Lion sightings are RARE! 
  • We have NO wild bears
  • We have NO wolves

That makes hiking, camping and wilderness wandering pretty laid back and FUN!!

We DO have a few animals to watch out for tho, and it is important to not only KNOW about them, but to be AWARE of them.

Buffalo Custer State Park

Did I forget to mention?

We do NOT have bear or wolves here. Ok, so I mentioned it above, but it's a BIG DEAL to me, so I am mentioning it again!

That I think is one of the BEST parts about camping and hiking here! Not that I don't like bear or wolves, mind you.

I do however enjoy being in the forest camping, hiking etc. not having to worry about being bear lunch. Or having to secure my food in a locker or a tree at night. Or worry that I left a breath mint in my pocket as I sleep in my tent, rolled up in my sleeping bag like a human hot dog. Maybe that's just me.

We DO have rattlesnakes, Mt. Lions and buffalo tho and it is worthy to get them a quick mention.

Let me preface this by saying you probably have a better chance of seeing a Mt Lion in town, then you do in the hills. Seriously. I have YET to see one while hiking or camping, even in the remotest of areas. Several are spotted each year in towns around the area tho. Still a pretty rare occurrence.

Rattlesnake Custer State Park


It is ALWAYS a good idea to keep little kids close to you on hiking trails. Don't let them run ahead or lag behind. That's just common safety etiquette in any mountains.

Several years back a young boy was running up ahead of his folks on a trail and stepped on a rattler he didn't see. A life flight and several vials of crofab later he was up and running around again, but good reminder to keep kids sandwiched in between on trails.

We have personally only seen 2 rattlesnakes in all our years of hiking these trails. Very unlikely you will run into one but we just want you to be aware of the fact, and on the lookout while you are hiking and camping.

Buffalo Custer State Park


Isn't he gorgeous??!! The picture does not do this big guy justice. He is HUGE! Until you see them up close personally it is hard to really get the "magnitude" of these awesome creatures!

These guys are found throughout the park. Don't let those big beautiful brown does eyes fool you tho. They are mean. They are tolerant of people, as in they have to learn to "put up" with us gawking at them all the time. But make no mistake, they are not tame!

Give these guys a wide berth and you should be just fine. It's the folks that try to get real close to them to get that awesome picture that are in danger of a charge. This close up picture was taken from my car window. Buffalo can and will charge cars when they have "had enough", please keep this in mind as you go through the park.

You will find the biggest herds on the wildlife loop rd. in Custer State Park. Altho the Badlands National Park also has a herd.

You will also find these guys hangin out frequently by the Game Lodge area.

MTN Goat Custer State Park

Mountain Goat

Awww, ain't he cute?? This guy used to hang out behind Sylvan Lake, which is where we snapped this picture. You may get lucky and see one hiking the Sylvan Lake Loop Trail, or you can spot them on the downward leg of the Sunday Gulch Trail.

We got super lucky one year and saw a Mother and Baby Mtn Goat on top of the world, at the end of the Little Devils Tower trail.

You can also find these guys by the side view turnout for Mount Rushmore sometimes.

Mtn Sheep Custer State Park
Mtn Sheep Gang Custer State Park

Mountain Sheep

We love Custer State Park for it's wildlife viewing, and these two pictures taken are testimonies to why we love the Park so much!

The picture on the right has an awesome story. You can not tell from this picture what is going on here, so I will tell you about one of our best wildlife experiences EVER!!

As you can tell from the picture it was foggy out, and drizzly too. We were driving the park and had just passed the Game Lodge. Off to the side of the road, across from the picnic area we saw THIS!

A gang of buck Mtn Sheep, and they were battling it out! It appeared to be a group of young males, out tearing it up and being naughty.

There were about 6 of them all together, and what we saw was the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed of animal antics in the wild.

They formed a large circle, and actually took "turns" meeting each other in the center to do battle! Awesome! They would circle each other a bit, then rear up on their hind legs, then run on the back two legs at each other and BAM! They rammed each other head on. C-R-A-C-K! The sound echoed thru the little canyon.

Over and over again.

Never mind it being cold, never mind the steady drizzle soaking us, we sat super still and quiet in the grass, just behind a rock and watched the scene unfold.

It was a sight we never will forget our whole lives! I just wish we had grabbed the camera to take pictures sooner, of the action. We were like "frozen" in the experience tho. The memories will live forever in our minds tho.

The best place to spot these guys "hangin out" is around the Peter Norbeck Visitors Center. But, you can get lucky and find them anywhere in the Park as they are free roaming, just like the rest of the animals.

Beggin Burros Custer State Park
Baby Burro Custer State Park

Beggin Burros

Donkeys are not native to South Dakota Wildlife, but, they are a big favorite at Custer State Park, so I am including them here.

They have new babies every spring, and they are just so stinkin cute!

The Park asks you not to feed the wildlife, but everybody feeds these guys anyways, and they have for years. I think the donkeys would feel sad and unloved if we didn't. =)

The donkeys can be aggressive, so best to have tennis shoes on and get out with your kids.

The Mommas are pretty protective of those babies till later in the summer, so the best way to scratch babies ears is to divide and conquer! Have the grown up keep Momma busy with some bread while the kids get some baby time.

Next Page More Black Hills Animals...

New! Comments

Don't be shy,be social and say hi! We would love to hear from you.

Top of Black Hills WildlifeDeadwoodSturgis Motorcycle Rally Pictures


Hi, I am Jo. Welcome!
I have lived and played in the Black Hills all my life. I grew up camping, fishing, hiking, kickin it up at the Motorcycle Rallies and touring our area attractions. I want to show you the locals Black Hills, our secret  places to play, visit and eat! Please stay and browse around, and come back often too, I am always adding new reviews. Thanks for stopping by.

Connect with us

XML RSSSubscribe To This Site

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Black Hills Trip Planner Updates.

Big Bull Bison in the fall

Fun Stuff For Kids

Our Wildlife