Close encounters of the buffalo kind.

I almost died yesterday.

Ok, that’s a little dramatic, but things got pretty intense with the buffalo. The park’s standing rule with the huge animals is to stay the length of a football field away from them. That can be challenging when the things are right on the road, but as long as you stay in your car, you’re probably not going to tick them off and everything will be fine. It’s also kind of challenging when they like to hang out in your yard, but I’ve always managed to find another door to use if I really, really need to get out of the dorm building for some reason.

I was driving along Wildlife Loop Road looking for buffalo to photograph (shortly after the bird incident from my previous entry) when I came upon what I swear was all 1,300 buffalo that are in the park. They were all right on the road too, so there were about 15 cars full of tourists with cameras parked alongside the road as the herd of buffalo slowly moved south.

Even though they were moving, they were on the road. And the thing with buffalo is, you can’t tell them to hurry up, or they’ll charge your car. It’s also really unsafe to get out of your car when there are a ton of them around, especially with calves. I repeat – it doesn’t matter how cool you think the picture is going to be – don’t get out of your car.

But that’s just what one stupid tourist did. (Ok, maybe he just didn’t know any better, but I’ll get to that in a minute.) He got out of his sturdy, metal car and put his frail, thin, fleshy body only about ten feet from a hulking, 1,000-pound, muscled buffalo and her calf. I know from experience that if someone of authority tells me what to do, I would comply until they leave and then keep on doing what I want, so a lot of the time, telling tourists they might die is a useless chore. Still, I felt obligated, so as I slowly crept by him in my own car I leaned out my window.

“Hey,” I said, trying to be quiet. “I wouldn’t get any closer if I were you.”

The guy barely even glanced back. He didn’t notice I was in a state car and didn’t notice that I was wearing a state uniform, so he merely grunted and kept snapping pictures. I gave up and kept driving slowly.

That’s what I get for trying to be nice…at least I wouldn’t do anything that stupid…

And suddenly, the buffalo were upon me. They weren’t being aggressive, but suddenly I went from having a group of buffalo scattered around my car to having a ton of buffalo rubbing up against my car as they walked by. My windows were down and I was afraid to put them up for fear of accidentally making a loud noise and ticking the animals off. So, I slowly applied pressure to the gas pedal with the hopes of sliding through the tightly-knit group of animals who had decided to have a huddle around my car.

Snapped this horrible picture through my windshield seconds before the buffalo flocked to my car. I feel like they were thinking about it in this shot. Planning. Waiting.

Snapped this horrible picture through my windshield seconds before the buffalo flocked to my car. I feel like they were thinking about it in this shot. Planning. Waiting.

To my horror, my car growled. I hadn’t noticed that at some point, I had put the car in neutral, so when I hit the gas, it just revved the engine and made my car sound like a big, green, angry beast. At this point, several of the buffalo abruptly stopped moving and I stopped breathing. I wasn’t worried for my safety, I just didn’t want to wreck the state car and give the idiot with the camera the pleasure of watching.

Thankfully, that only lasted a moment and the buffalo kept moving. Thirty seconds after that, I had a clear path to maneuver through and I got out of the herd quickly.

But still, I’m pretty sure I almost died.

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One thought on “Close encounters of the buffalo kind.

  1. This was the first of your post I read. My sister and a sister-in-law flew in from So California for a weeks vacation in June. My sister and sister-in-law hadn’t been home to the Black Hills in some 40 years. I travel to the Black Hills almost every year, and my husband and I have been taking a months long stay for the past 4 years. I printed this up and had my sister read it as we drove from the airport to our destination in Hill City this past June. They thoroughly enjoyed your take on viewing the Buffalo in the park. I’m so glad you didn’t die. I look forward to more of your posts through the summer. In a few weeks my husband, dog and I will be back with our trailer for our annual month long stay. Keep up the good work and continue to enjoy your self. I’m looking forward to hearing of your adventures and shenanigans while your work in the park this summer. Blessings

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