- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2007

CUSTER, S.D. (AP) — Each fall, a classic scene from the Old West comes thundering across a ridge.

Hundreds of buffalo are herded into corrals at Custer State Park as part of an annual roundup, kicking up clouds of dust and delighting spectators from around the world.

“This is as close to the wild and wooly West as you’re ever going to get,” said Bob Lantis, 72, who has been a cowboy in the past 35 roundups. “This is an adrenaline high that is hard to beat.”

The roundup started 42 years ago as a way to manage the buffalo and has burgeoned into a late-season tourist event, attracting more than 10,000 spectators who stand in designated spots only a few hundred feet from the beasts.

“The roundup really started gaining in popularity when the movie ‘Dances With Wolves’ came out,” said Craig Pugsley, a park spokesman. “There was kind of a rebirth of interest in the buffalo and people started to come to watch.”

This year, about 1,250 bison from across the 110-square-mile park were herded into corrals, the culmination of a monthlong effort.

Forty-five riders on horseback and park rangers in vehicles tried to keep the 2,000-pound animals pointed in the direction of the corrals. The crowd on Monday roared when a few broke away and cheered when they were nudged back in line.

“You got to see all of the buffalo along the horizon and then see them come down and it’s kind of fun to try to count them all,” said Brian Miller, 12, of Aberdeen.

The roundup usually brings in about 1,500 buffalo. But because of drought, the herd was thinned to about 1,250 so they don’t overgraze the park grass.

About 300 will be auctioned Nov. 17, most of them for private herd development. The proceeds, typically around $240,000, help cover park operations and improvements. The rest of the animals are turned back onto the 110-square-mile park to roam.

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