Whenever we are traveling, we tend to take lots of pictures. In particular, we enjoy photographing whatever local wildlife we happen across. Last year, when we went to Yellowstone, we got some fairly decent photos of elk, deer and more bison than we could really stomach. We were hoping to get some similar photos in the Black Hills during this trip and so we set out yesterday on a drive through some of the backwoods, little used roads of South Dakota.
|Elk with his fall rack of antlers|
We didn't know what to expect, but we were pleased to come around the corner and see a bull elk lounging in the grass. Elk are not common in this area but do show up occasionally apparently.
|Reindeer, a little far south|
We were rather surprised however, when a couple of minutes later we came across a reindeer. We were wondering how he got to Black Hills when we were distracted by a couple of gamboling river otters playing by the side of the road.
|In case you didn't know, this is what gamboling looks like.|
|Where did he get the dog biscuit?|
All right, perhaps we didn't run into all of these creatures entirely by blind chance. No, we forked over our hard-earned dollars to drive through Bear Country USA, a small drive through "wild animal park" just south of Rapid City. We wandered around Yellowstone last year at all hours of the day and night and never saw a single bear so we decided this year by golly, one way or another, we were gonna have bear pictures.
|Bear cubs at play|
As kitschy as this is, we actually really enjoyed it and thought it was $32 well spent. The weather was cool enough that most of the animals were out and about and there was a certain amount of excitement involved in waiting to see what was coming around the next corner. The only drawback is that the park rules are that you have to stay in your car with all the windows rolled up, so the photographs were all shot through an extra layer of glass. Particularly with the windshield, this was a problem because of the angle of the glass sheet. But they did have the foresight to have a window washing station at the entrance so you could get your windows reasonably clean before you started.
|Bear up a tree|
Anyway, of all the chintzy attractions on the road to Mount Rushmore, we thought this was the least chintzy. I mean really, would you rather spend your time in Sitting Bull's Crystal Cave or petting goats at Old McDonald's Farm? So if you're traveling through the area, consider stopping by and visiting the bears. It's the closest safe view you are likely to get and you won't have to worry about becoming grizzly grub.