Cowboys, cowgirls and park rangers this month will wrangle about 1,300 bison in an Old West-style roundup at Custer State Park in South Dakota.
The 49th Buffalo Roundup (yes, they're bison but the buffalo name stuck) at the park takes place Sept. 26. It's one of two still held on public lands in the U.S. each year; the other is at Antelope Island State Park in Utah.
Custer park's roundup started almost half a century ago to manage the animals that graze on the park's more than 70,000 acres. Since then, it has become a tourism magnet that draws about 14,000 people each year to see the mighty beasts.
The goal is to keep the number of bison and grazing lands in balance and make sure members of the herd are healthy. Once animals are rounded up and in corrals, new bison are branded, others are tested, vaccinated and checked for pregnancy, according to the event's FAQs.
About 300 are set aside to be sold at auction in Nov. 15.
Though the roundup doesn't start until 9:30 a.m., gates open at 6:15 a.m. and visitors wait in line to go to viewing areas. Visitors should bring layered clothing, binoculars, sunscreen and folding chairs for the daylong event, which is free and open to the public.
The concurrent Buffalo Roundup Arts Festival Sept. 26-28 features fine arts and locally made crafts, several cook-offs and performances of Native American dances and square dancing.
The park is in the southwestern corner of South Dakota. Don't confuse it with Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana where Lt. Col. George Custer and his men died in a showdown with Native American tribes.