Wildlife Pose Problem For Inattentive Motorists At Wind Cave National Park

Colliding with wildlife, such as bison, in Wind Cave National Park can really put a dent in your visit to the park. NPS photo.

Winter driving in Wind Cave National Park can be troublesome for inattentive drivers due to short hours of daylight, snowy weather, and bison drawn to the roads by salt used to melt snow and ice.

Park officials are issuing warnings that poor visibility and vehicle speeds too high for winter driving conditions can lead to accidents involving wildlife in the park, as the accompanying photo taken early in October shows.

“This time of year, with so many people driving at night or in poor weather conditions, it can be difficult to see a bison or elk in the road in time to safely stop,” said Wind Cave Superintendent Vidal Davila. “Occasionally, even driving the posted speed limit is too fast for conditions and people need to slow down.”

Park officials say areas of particular concern for motorists are entrances into the park because of their speed limit change and cattle guards that tend to shake loose snow and salt from vehicles entering the park.

Accidents involving large wildlife, even when traveling at posted speed limits, have the potential to cause serious injuries to drivers and their passengers. Studies show the best way to reduce these types of accidents is for drivers to slow down.

“So far this year we’ve lost five bison, three deer, and one pronghorn antelope due to vehicle collisions," the superintendent said late last week. "One of these accidents occurred last summer during the Sturgis Rally. A minivan hit a bison and shoved it across the road into the path of a biker. He was okay, but the bike wasn’t drivable and the bison died.”

Wind Cave National Park protects around 450 bison.