Drivers Urged to Use Caution when Driving Through Wind Cave National Park

Drivers need to be extra cautious during the winter driving through Wind Cave National Park due to wildlife on the roads.  (NPS Photo)

December 6, 2017

WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK, HOT SPRINGS, S.D. – With the recent winter weather, bison are once again on or near the roadways of Wind Cave National Park, especially Highway 385 at the park’s south entrance.  Three bison were injured and one was killed in vehicle crashes in the park so far this season.

“Bison gather in the driving lanes, especially next to the cattle guards, where salt is most easily tracked in on vehicles,” said park superintendent Vidal Dávila. “Despite their size, these animals are very difficult to see on the park’s winding roads, all the more so at night or when visibility is poor due to winter weather.”

Bison and other large animals such as elk are drawn to the roads by salt used to melt snow and ice during winter storms. The park doesn’t salt their roads, but salt is carried into the park by vehicles from outside the park. Salt-laden clumps of snow and ice are frequently shaken loose while vehicles travel through the park or when vehicles rattle across cattle guards at park boundaries. The recent animal collisions occurred along US Highway 385, where salt is most prevalent.

The park may seek restitution for each animal killed if the driver is found to be negligent due to factors such as speed or driving under the influence.

State regulations do not allow the park to donate road-killed bison to food banks. The bison carcasses instead provided food for other park wildlife.

There are approximately 350 bison and 390 elk in the park.

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