Back in June of 2012, my 8 year old son Rayce and I took a road trip out to Western South Dakota. We took a day to drive through the park, and explore along the Wildlife Loop Road.
As we traveled along the road, we drove slow, looking left, right, up and down for any sign of wild life. I told my son, "Keep your eyes open for anything cool," expecting to see buffalo, fox, or other wildlife. When suddenly, he yelled, "Mom! I see something in the road ahead..." Sure enough, there were animals ahead, my blood started pumping a little faster with excitement, I drove slow, approaching the 'wild animals' at a slow speed so I didn't scare them away. We get up close enough to see what it is that my son had spotted, and sure enough, it was ....donkeys?!
We pulled the car over and got out, sitting up against our vehicle watching these animals for a while.
After watching the donkeys for awhile, a few other tourists showed up, and they too parked, and let their children pet the burros, and fed them some snacks from their vehicles. One little boy, about 10 years old, came up to me in his toughest big-boy voice and said "You know, you can go closer to them, they aren't scary!" As he finished his statement, he wandered over to a nearby dried up creek which was tangled in downed trees and vines, and came out running, and yelling in his not so tough voice, "Ahhh! A snake! A snake!" I couldn't resist laughter at this moment, and it's a visual stuck in my head, that I still laugh about.
We decided we would continue on our way down the road and see what else came into our path. But, ...the donkeys, well, they had other plans for us.
We had the windows down, and I couldn't get up the passenger window fast enough , and the next thing we knew, we had a donkey head -in our car. As I slowly put the window up, trying to convince the donkey to get out of my car, he continued to lick the window as it shut. I guess it was dirty anyways-thanks to that donkey for the car wash.
In attempts to learn more about the donkeys in the park, I had stopped at the visitor center and learned that the Custer State Park burros are feral. They were introduced into the area by humans and have reverted to a wild or semi-wild state. Specifically, the park’s donkey squad descends from pack animals once used for treks to the Harney Peak summit. Now naturalized, they often beg for food from tourists in places like the Wildlife Loop Road, Because of their boldness, they received the name of the “begging burros."
If you travel to Western South Dakota, take some time to explore Custer State Park, it is a place full of beauty, a great location to view the Great Stone Faces from afar -without the crowds, and to see the Begging Burros. As always, feral or not, use caution around all wild animals in the park.
You can learn more about Custer State Park here.
I hope you enjoyed my latest adventure and that you too will take some time to seek beauty around you, wherever you are!
Thanks for reading,