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A Guide to Black Hills Wildlife

Updated: Apr 15

The Black Hills of South Dakota is a vast landscape full of unique plant life and a variety of different wildlife species. Many of the area's attractions and events bring people from far and wide to witness the unique animal species up close.

At Black Hills Adventure Tours our guides are knowledgeable about the different wildlife species in our area, how to approach them safely, and where you might be most likely to find them.

If there is a specific animal you’re hoping to see on your Black Hills tour, let your guide know and they can help “guide” you in the right direction.

Below are some of the most majestic animals you can expect to find on your next Black Hills Vacation.

1- Bison

The Black Hills are the perfect spot if you are looking to see one of North America’s most majestic creatures. The Bison, or American Buffalo, are common inhibitors of many areas in the Black Hills. Badlands National Park has over 450 bison that make their home in the southeastern part of the Park. Custer State Park is home to one of the largest herds ever with nearly 1,350 bison roaming the grasslands. For those enthralled with the power and beauty of the bison, plan your trip to the Black Hills in late September to witness the annual Buffalo Roundup.

2- Mountain Goats

One of the more elusive animals in the Black Hills is the Rocky Mountain Goat. These animals were not native to the area but were actually a gift from Canada in 1924. After escaping captivity they have made a home in the many granite peaks throughout the Black Hills. Common in Cathedral Spires and Spearfish Canyon, these mountain goats can be difficult to spot due to how high up they are often found. Lucky for you, your Black Hills Adventure Tours guides are always equipped with a pair of binoculars to help you spot the area’s wildlife.

3- Bald Eagles

The Black Hills is home to one of the most majestic creatures in North America, the Bald Eagle. For a while, the animals had left, but beginning in 1993 these raptors were found nesting in the area. Bald Eagles are difficult to spot but are most likely spotted in the early morning or near sunset. For those interested in seeing one of these birds check out the Bald Eagle Viewing Trail in Spearfish, South Dakota, or ask your Black Hills Adventure Tour guide for other locations.

4- Burros

Burros or small, wild donkeys have been a part of Custer State Park for nearly a century. They were originally used as pack animals to get visitors from Sylvan Lake Lodge up to the summit of Black Elk Peak. The donkeys have lived in the wild since and become one of the most popular attractions in Custer State Park. Often nicknamed the begging burros these animals are known for coming up to parked cars, sticking their heads in the windows, and looking for snacks. These furry friends are a must-see on your next vacation to the Black Hills.

5- Mountain Lions

While most of the wildlife in the area is safe to watch from a distance, it is important to be careful when hiking, or adventuring in the Black Hills that you don’t stumble upon the more dangerous species. Mountain Lions are not incredibly common in the area, but they are still prevalent in the area. To keep you safe avoid hiking alone, especially at night or in the early morning. Bring something with you that can make a loud noise, this will help scare away a mountain lion in the case of an encounter.

6- Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep were likely native to the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota before European settlement began. In 1922, eight Rocky Mountain Bighorns were released in Custer State Park. Since then, the Bighorn population in the area has fluctuated greatly to diseases in the herd, hunting, and more. Currently, the population of Bighorn Sheep in the Black Hills has increased to a healthy amount. Bighorns are most commonly found in the Badlands since the herds there have very few natural predators in the area. Bighorns are very impressive to see in person due to their size and strength. Next time you’re in the area make sure to keep your eye out for these majestic creatures.

7- Pronghorn (Antelope)

Known for their distinctive horns that can reach up to 15 inches, Pronghorns, more commonly known as antelope, are prominent residents of the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. They enjoy this area because antelope can wander up to 10 miles a day in open grassy areas. Antelope is also the fastest land animal in North America running up to 60 mph for great distances. This is how they can survive living amongst predators such as coyotes and mountain lions. The antelope population is lower than before due to drought, harsh winters, and decreasing habitat. However, there are still many herds throughout western South Dakota so keep your eyes peeled.

The Black Hills and surrounding areas are home to a wide variety of fascinating wildlife species. If you are interested in learning more about the species in the area, get in contact with Black Hills Adventure Tours. Our guides can give you information regarding various species in the area and where you’ll be most likely to find them.

3,688 views2 comments


Elena Gonick
Elena Gonick
Apr 14

The image used for pronghorn is clearly an African antelope, completely genetically distinct from pronghorn and not found in the US.

Apr 16
Replying to

I appreciate you pointing that out. You were absolutely right! We got that changed today.

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