Moon Walk to Highlight Genetically Valuable Bison Herd

RAPID CITY, SD — Join the Black Hills National Forest and The Nature Conservancy at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 17 for a moonlit hike and learn about an effort to protect a genetically valuable bison herd that is based in western South Dakota. 

Participants in the scheduled Moon Walk event will walk a total of approximately 2 miles over uneven, hilly terrain on a private ranch that has been permanently protected as a result of a conservation easement between the landowner and The Nature Conservancy. Dogs are not permitted at this program. 

Featured speaker, Greg Schroeder, natural resource manager for Wind Cave National Park, will discuss how a partnership between the Conservancy and the National Park Service is protecting a genetically valuable bison population. Genetic testing of bison from nearby Wind Cave has shown no evidence of cattle genes. To help protect this population’s gene pool, the Conservancy has been establishing satellite herds with offspring from the National Park. 

Participants will see newborn bison calves as well as other wildlife. “Native prairie wildlife are abundant in this area and visitors will most likely hear and see elk, deer, turkeys and coyotes as well,” said Amy Ballard, USFS Moon Walk coordinator.  

To reach the Moon Walk site, travel south of Rapid City, SD on Highway 79 approximately 32 miles to Lame Johnny Creek Road (Custer County Road 16).  Turn west or right at the gravel pit and travel 3.7 miles on a gravel road to the parking area. Parking will be in the mowed area in front of the ranch house.  The drive from Rapid City should take approximately 45 minutes. Signs will be placed at major intersections to guide visitors to the site. 

The Forest Service suggests that visitors bring flashlights, water, and bug repellant and dress for unexpected weather and hiking on uneven land. Long pants and sturdy footwear (hiking boots or athletic shoes) are recommended for your comfort and safety. Binoculars or spotting scopes are also recommended to view the herd from a safe distance.

The program may be cancelled unexpectedly for unforeseen reasons such as lightning, high fire danger forecasts and other reasons beyond our control. The program will not be cancelled due to rain unless lightning is spotted.  Please arrive early to aid us in parking vehicles as 100 visitors per walk have been attending the programs. 

For more information about the Moon Walk program and summer schedule go to www.fs.usda.gov/blackhills or call the Black Hills National Forest at 605-343-1567.
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