Badlands National Park to expand area where bison range



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RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Badlands National Park in South Dakota is expanding bison rangeland in the north unit by more than 35 square miles after a yearlong stewardship and environmental impact plan was finalized.

The new area — a total of more than 125 square miles — would extend west from the current boundary along Badlands Loop Road and stop before reaching the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.

One of the reasons for the expansion is to give visitors more opportunities to view the animals and provide for a better park experience, park officials told the Rapid City Journal (http://bit.ly/2hnZ6L5).

Badlands superintendent Mike Pflaum said more than 90 percent of the park's visitors never see a bison.

The expansion plan comes during a year when injuries to people from bison spiked at Custer State Park, which is about 90 miles west of Badlands National Park. Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming also had at least five incidents of bison attacks this year.

Pflaum said public safety is a major priority of the park. To ensure that, new signage will be placed throughout the park warning visitors of the bison before they are moved into the extended rangeland.

"We also hope to have more staff spread throughout the park that can interact with visitors and warn them about getting too close," Pflaum said.

He said he hopes visitors will keep a "respectable distance" to avoid putting themselves in a hazardous situation.

The national park has no reports of a major injury from a bison attack in its history — despite having campground where bison routinely graze only a few yards away.

Pflaum said the park has been very fortunate.

While the bison will have more room to roam, park officials said there are no plans to increase the herd, which is currently about 1,000 head in the park.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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