Frawley Ranch Bison – Up Close and Personal

.

Just north of Deadwood and the Black Hills National Forest is Centennial Valley and location of the 4,750 acre Frawley Ranch (estab. 1880), the largest and most successful cattle ranch in western South Dakota.

Today Frawley Ranch is one of only two National Historic Sites in the entire state of South Dakota.  (more on the interesting history of Frawley Ranch here)

Frawley Ranch provides a glimpse into pioneer life with restoration of the historical buildings and their natural environment, while incorporating modern development for the future that now includes the Elkhorn Ridge Golf Course, “Upper Ranch” Courthouse Barns venue for weddings, real estate development, and the Elkhorn Ridge RV Resort (where we’ve been camping for the past few weeks).

To add historical authenticity, Frawley Ranch includes a small herd of bison.  Today the herd contains approximately 30 bison, including the calves born this past spring.  The herd takes care of themselves.  The ranch does provide a huge bale of hay during the harsh winters to assist their survival.

I found out we were able to take a private tour to go out to see these bison on the prairie.  This would include feeding them. 😲

We met ranch hand Eric at the Courthouse Barns and climbed into a ranch vehicle for the ride.  I rode in the back seat along with a five gallon bucket of bison ‘treats’.

.

DSC_9234-1 62421

Frawley “Upper” Ranch Courthouse Barns (now also a wedding venue)

.

Heading out onto the prairie, the herd of bison was spread out and could be seen grazing.

.

DSC_9218-1 62421

Frawley Ranch bison out on the prairie

.

DSC_7817-1 62421

Frawley Ranch bison

.

Eric told us once the herd saw us, they would come running.  Sure enough, they did!

.

DSC_9028-1 62421

Bison cows and calves running after us

.

They wasted no time in getting right up to our windows, looking for a treat.

.
.

DSC_8918-1 62421

My husband feeding a treat

.

With their impressive size and strength, it was incredible to be up close & personal and see their gentle side.  There was no aggressiveness because we did not provoke them.

.

Did you know bison have blue tongues?

.

Bison’s blue tongue

.

The females (cows) were the first to the truck to beat the picking order.  There are two bulls in the Frawley Ranch herd.  We watched the massive young bull take his time meandering to the truck.  All the females and calves quickly got out of the way as he approached us.

.
.

The young bull was getting his share of treats, but he was also getting wary of another approaching bull.  The head bull of the herd.

.

DSC_8887-1 62421

Head Bull “Pig” making a grand entrance

.
.

Photo close-ups….bison eyes….

.

DSC_8937-1 62421

.

β€œWhen you look a wild animal in the eye, it’s like catching a glimpse into the soul of nature itself.”  — Paul Oxton

.

DSC_8817-1 62421

.

Bison fur….

.

DSC_8880-1 62421

.

DSC_8794-1 62421

.

Oh, the adorable calves!  These calves (also nicknamed “red dogs” in some parts of the country) were born this past April/May….

.

DSC_8831-1 62421

.

DSC_8871-1 62421

.

DSC_9001-1 62421

.

DSC_8874-1 62421

Little blue tongue

.

This calf is a year old, born Spring 2020.

.

DSC_8764-1 62421

Calf a year old, born Spring 2020

.

DSC_8935-1 62421

Calf with its Mama

.

Of course, all good things come to an end!  Eric maneuvered the truck away from the bison for our departure.

.

DSC_8956-1 62421

.

But we had one Mama bison and her calf that decided to escort us back, it was awesome as they ran alongside us.

.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

.

As we crested over the prairie hill to head back down to the ranch gates, the female and calf stopped and watched us.  Precious!

,

DSC_9207-1 62421

“We enjoyed your visit, come back again!”

.

It is obvious the bison are well cared for with love and respect.  And though we were in very close proximity to them, there is no real safe way to approach these dangerous wild animals.  If they feel threatened, they will charge and bite.

Thank you, Eric, for your tour, it was a thrilling experience we will not forget!  (Another thank you to Eric in the next post too! πŸ˜‰)

.

.

57 thoughts on “Frawley Ranch Bison – Up Close and Personal

  1. Endearing photos, Donna! These huge animals are as beautiful as powerful. Thank you! πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Lisa! The ranch provided the treats. We had leather gloves we wore while feeding them. But I did take a glove off and petted Pig, the head bull, on his forehead. Ewwww….wiry hair. lol But I was like a kid after doing it. πŸ™‚

  2. Fantastic experience! That bull even in the distance looks quite formidable. I love seeing the “reds” especially with little horns bumping up. Really enjoyed the slide show. Do they get that “up close and personal” when the bulls are in rut? Or too dangerous? We were in a school bus a couple of years ago and got charged just driving down the road during rutting season. What were the treats?

    • Thank you, Jane, it was pretty exciting! I’m not sure about during rut, but I’d think there wouldn’t be any private tours for everyone’s safety. The ranch furnished the bucket of treats, they were huge hard/crunchy pellets, and I forgot to ask what they were made of, but they sure did like them. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Eliza, it sure was pretty awesome! In between photographing and feeding, I just sat in awe watching them, laughing, amazed at how gentle they were, but knowing anything could happen and they could easily have felt threatened and reacted.

  3. These pictures and the story are really amazing. What an incredible adventure you are having!

    • Thank you, Susan! I can even say I petted head bull “Pig” without a glove, it was REAL quick! Another instance as I taking photos, one leaned in so far and I felt a tongue on my fingers, it was trying to lick my camera. Tongue felt like very rough sandpaper. πŸ™‚

  4. Increadible shots you made Donna. It must be quite impressive to have a huge bison head close to the window of your car. A nice chance for close-ups. I hope that there was no aggression in the herd.

    • Thank you, Rudi! It was a thrill for sure to see them coming to us. There was no aggression at all. They respect each other and most definitely the head bull, he is the king. πŸ™‚

  5. What an amazing experience! It must have been a thrill to look the bison in the eye and be close enough to see the blue tongue. I can see why the call the calves red dogs. The mother and calf watching you leave was priceless. Loved the close-ups of the snout, too! πŸ™‚

    • I was on Cloud 9 when we left, what an experience! I even petted head bull “Pig” real quick to say I did it, lol. He was so very gentle, it was amazing. Those snouts like to snort, I even got a little bison snot/slobber on me! πŸ˜‚

    • It did me for sure! I was nervous, excited, had a little fear, and was just in awe at this experience. I did pet bull head “Pig” (couple pats, ewww his hair was wiry) when he bent down a bit at my window. I just had too! And that was towards the end when I was feeling more comfortable.

  6. Oh WOW!! What an awesome experience! I have been that close to a Bison in Yellowstone while camping. I think I told you. They’re huge!! Did you feel the ground rumble and tremble as they were running toward you?

    All the images are superb!

    • Thanks, Denise! It was a cool experience. Aren’t those horn bumps so cute?!! πŸ™‚ The Badlands and Black Hills were both very photogenic and much enjoyed. Sometimes I wish we didn’t have our sports car with us, though, it keeps us from taking all the dirt roads where I know you’d find some gem locations! πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: