Bats; they’re a problem.

Custer State Park has some really cool wildlife, but I’ve kind of had it with the bats.

Earlier in the summer, a group of us younger seasonal workers went on an evening swim at Legion Lake. I chose to sit on the beach and watch, and was rewarded with the sight of a couple hundred bats swooping and diving through the air above my friends’ heads. It was dark enough that no one was the wiser of what was happening, and I got to see these cool little creatures catch their dinner in midair.

Now, move forward in time to last week. We leave the doors on the dorm building open a lot if it gets stuffy or we’re all right outside. Last week, Dennis was laying in our lounge watching Netflix when a group of us walked through to go sit on the stoop outside. The door was open already and I saw what I thought was a giant moth flying around the tiny room.

“Hey is that a…”
“That’s a bat!” somebody chirped.

Sure enough, there was a freaked out bat doing circles in the lounge in a constant search for the door.

And the funny thing was, nobody really did anything. We all just filtered through the room and onto the porch. Once we were through, somebody turned around and said, “We should do something?

“Should we shut the inside door?”
“Think it can get out on its own?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe if it stays in there it will eat all those little gnats that get inside.”
“I don’t want it to get into my room.”
“Nah, it’ll be fine.”

And we all just kind of stood there and stared at the thing as it continued its search for the door. This went on for about 30 seconds before the creature lucked out and flew back out of the building and we continued with our evening.

But it’s not over. Yesterday was the first day back in my office after working entrance stations and when I walked down the stairs to “Down Under,” I was greeted with the smell of sewage. I asked Karla the secretary for some air spray moments later.

“It’s probably the bats,” she explained. Apparently, they had been trickling down from the attic into the main part of the office and one may or may not have somehow gotten into the basement.

The air freshener helped, but now it just smells like sewage covered in flowers and peaches, so I hope the bat is gone.

Fingers crossed he doesn’t fly over my head. Any second now…


#Instagram #birds #buffalo #unobservant

I stepped out into a crisp July day at about 7:49 a.m. this morning and was met with the sound of laughter. Or was it crying? Nope, definitely laugh…maybe someone was crying. It was coming from the naturalists’ storage shed, and there were a couple cars parked out front, so I went to investigate.

“Joe?” I asked warily as I came upon the shed. It sounded like she had her leg caught under a fallen piece of equipment and was screaming.
Then there was riotous laughter.

Two of the park’s naturalists, Joe (also known as Joe-Joe) and Melissa emerged from the shed looking like they’d been dipped in honey and then rolled around in massive amounts of mangy looking feathers. It wasn’t far from the truth – while looking for supplies for an educational canoeing program, they had come across a couple of sweatshirts that someone had fashioned into bird costumes. The dark cloth had been extended below the arms to create wings and large feathers had been attached. The hoods even sported two giant white fluffy balls that represented some of the weirdest bird eyes I’ve ever seen, but the whole getup was pretty brilliant in my opinion.

But after a time in the shed, the costumes were beginning to look frayed and worn. So, the two goofy naturalists had put them on and were dancing wildly around the storage shed singing some disco-era tune. It was a pretty funny sight and put me in a happy mood as I walked to work.

Fast forward about an hour. Someone posted an Instagram photo of the park to our Twitter account, so I attempted to check it out and see if it was re-tweetable. The page slowly loaded and the photo I was looking for was strangely MIA, but another buffalo picture loaded instead. It was taken and uploaded at about 8 a.m. by one of the girls who lives in the dorms. It read:

sarah89765: Good morning!!! Buffalo love our volleyball court. #custerstatepark #buffalo

The photo showed a large hulking buffalo lounging in the sand of our volleyball court. This wouldn’t be anything unusual except for the fact that I had gone outside and walked right by that spot and not even noticed him. Had the laughter and the bird costumes really been that distracting?

How does one not notice a giant brown life form sitting mere yards away from them? I don’t know – maybe I was still technically asleep or maybe I just missed him and he wasn’t even there. All I know is that from now on, I’m looking both ways before leaving the dorms.

We’re all just a bunch of buffalo.

When you’re around animals a lot, their daily habits start looking a little less like random behavior and a lot more like a soap opera.

First, it was the deer – the same two deer that have been stalking on my way to and from work, actually. They were apparently a couple and have now spawned an adorable little fawn that is too quick to get a good photo of. So, they still stalk me, but it’s different now that I know they’re a mom and a dad. The baby deer always sees me and runs into the tall grass to disappear while mom and dad don’t move at all and stand there as if to say, “What? Oh, you thought you saw something? You must be mistaken. Move along.”

What's that you say? Oh, there's nothing to see here, I promise. You can trust me; I'm a deer.

What’s that you say? Oh, there’s nothing to see here, I promise. You can trust me; I’m a deer.

And then there’s the buffalo. This time of year is known as ‘The Rut,’ which basically means it’s mating season. The feisty buffalo are a lot more active and are obviously paired off. Groups of yearlings and calves are always accompanied by two or three mature bull/cow pairs, and watching them dance around the inevitable is pretty entertaining (and a little terrifying). It’s as if you’re watching the ‘Bold and the Beautiful’ or ‘Guiding Light’ when a smaller, more feisty bull approaches the big granddaddy and tries to spar for the female – who really has no choice in the matter at all. The biggest and baddest bulls always win, but it’s still kind of fun to root for the underdog.
I present to you 'The Bold and the Buffalo'

I present to you ‘The Bold and the Buffalo’

All of this animal-watching has made me think about our behavior in the employee dorms. After all, we’re merely animals, right? For those of you who disagree; read on.

What’s funny is that we totally do the same sorts of things the wildlife around the park does. The most experienced male, the unicycling park veteran Cody, was the alpha male. Even though he lived with two other guys who we all liked equally as much, it was always “Cody’s cabin” or “Cody and the guys.” He always was subconsciously given ownership. It wasn’t a conscious choice – it just happened. Then, when Cody was gone for a week at a unicycling nationals, it kind of just morphed into “Charlie’s cabin” and “Charlie and the guys,” because he was the next in line. No voting, no decisions – just nature.

It was the same with the girls. Sarah, the loudest and most boisterous of the group, was just automatically rallied around as the alpha female because was the first one here, she was the one who motivated us all to hang out together, and well…she was just kind of the loudest, so it wasn’t exactly easy to let her fade from your mind (and I say that in the most loving way possible).

But then, just like the buffalo, as the summer wore on we separated into smaller groups. Yes, we all still hang out together and we all get along, but we’ve separated into smaller herds. Mouse-finding Kori and I have split off with our respective boyfriends because, well, that’s what animals do. It’s biology. Sarah has kind of created her own smaller herd that all hangs out together, and another quieter herd has also formed with some of our group’s more docile members.

It might be a little offensive to refer to humans and friends in such animalistic terms, but I’m trying to make a point. While we’re a more intelligent species, when you break it down, we’re just as wild and primal as the buffalo. It’s not a choice – it’s a feeling, a pull toward something you don’t even realize is happening until you reflect back on it. And yes, our ability to reflect back on things – heck – our ability to use utensils and drive racecars and bake cookies and eat worms for $5 as a kid all make us a more superior species.

But we’re a species nonetheless; nothing but animals. Maybe that’s why I like it here so much – it’s bringing me back to my animal roots. Who knows?

Ways to not get charged by a buffalo:

Treat them how you would like to be treated.
It’s as simple as that. Imagine that those giant, hairy beasts are your neighbor Tom or your mother-in-law Angela. Each one has its own personality and each one can do a lot of damage to a human or a car if they have half a mind to. Granted, maybe your mother-in-law can also do damage to a person or a car, but buffalo can do it faster and more efficiently.

1. Honestly, would you like it if you were walking down the side of a road minding your own business, and a car pulled up next to you and started snapping photos? What if that car even managed to block your path a little and went from mildly inconvenient to super annoying? You’d kick their car if you could – only, when a buffalo kicks your car, it does a lot of damage.
If you’re going to take photos, give them enough room to breathe!

2. If you were standing in a mall with your child, would you like it if a stranger came up and tried to pet your kid? Your kid that you had just birthed and began raising, only to be assaulted by well-meaning strangers who have all kinds of their own useless advice on how to properly raise a child. And what If these strangers began congregating around you and snapping photos? Revving the engines of their cars? What then?
You’d get super ticked off and probably lash out – only when a buffalo lashes out, they can kill you. I know the buffalo calves (or ‘cinnamons,’ as I like to call them) are adorable, but they need their space.

3. How would you like it if people honked and yelled at you just to get you to look at them for a photo? You’d get pretty mad pretty fast, right? It’s no different with the buffalo. When the herd is crossing the road, let them do it at their own speed. They’re going that fast so that everyone is able to keep up, and if you’re late to something important, using the excuse that a herd of buffalo was in your way is always accepted without protest West River.

Dear tourists, I beg of you to heed my warning. The buffalo are starting to show that they’re so over having to deal with we tiny, annoying humans, so give them room to breathe and be respectful.

The end.

Doe, a deer, a couple of deer…

Deer are some of the most beautifully pensive and dopey creatures on this planet. They’re delicate and yet speedy things that just stand there looking like they’re wondering, “Did I leave the stove on?”

“I know I left the stove on.”

“I should go home and turn it off…JESUS CHRIST IN HEAVEN, A CAR!”

And then they dash off the road. Because they’re kind of dopey.

Lately, there have been two such creatures who like to hang out on the trail I walk to work on. The first time I saw them, I thought they were dogs off their leashes and I immediately concocted a plan to steal them and make them my best friends. Upon realizing that the two large brownish things in the path were in fact deer, I stopped to grab a photo.

Dear, I really do think you left the oven on.

Dear, I really do think you left the oven on.

And then the same thing happened the next day.
I suppose I'll move.

I suppose I’ll move.

And the next.
Oh man, it's that lady with the camera again. She's not even getting my good side.

Oh man, it’s that lady with the camera again. She’s not even getting my good side.

They’re always casually grazing near the path, which is also pretty close to the main road that runs through the park. As a result, they’re constantly on edge when trucks and motorcycles whiz by and make a loud “Vroooom!” sound. I think it’s because I’m really quiet compared to the loud vehicles, but when they encounter me, and don’t blink an eye. I’ve managed to get pretty close to them – about seven or ten yards – and I’m hoping against all odds that one day I’ll get close enough to pet one.

I know that’s stupid, but seriously, how many people get close enough to wild deer to touch them? I feel so lucky to have this job.