Animals in South Dakota

It’s not a question of whether or not there are animals in South Dakota, rather, it is a question of what type of wildlife are there. South Dakota is one of the native states in the United States with species of different diversity.

Animals in South Dakota are found in different habitats like lakes, rivers, mountains, and grasslands. These habitats support a wide variety of wildlife such as coyotes, bison, prairie animals in the Mississippi river, birds, etc.

Which animals are there in South Dakota? Where are the best views of the animals? Which animals would you rather observe from a safer distance? What are the state bird and the state fish? Well, this article is the article for you!

Tour guides are also available in the national parks and other attraction sites in South Dakota for those who are not as daring.

Background of the South Dakota State

The state of South Dakota was discovered in 1743 by two French men in search of a route to the Pacific. The state was acquired in 1803 by the U.S as part of the Louisiana Purchase. However, settlement began when gold was discovered in the Black Hills.

South Dakota is in the center of the country. The beauty and the numerous tourist attraction sites are astonishing. The Black Hills provide the most stunning outdoor experience. In this area, tourists find a lot of attractive things ranging from large monuments to underground caves.

When listing the places to visit in South Dakota, Mount Rushmore cannot be left out. The mountain is a habitat of unique and hard-to-find creatures like the rocky goats and the panthers to name but a few.

The Badland National Park is another breathtaking site in South Dakota. The park has unique pinnacles and hills that resulted from sand and clay erosion. Other than the astonishing sites, Bison is seen to roam the park freely.

Custer State Park is also found in South Dakota. Here, a wide range of different wildlife exists peacefully. The Bison are the main tourist attraction animals in this region. The park has challenging trails to be enjoyed by hikers. The Wildlife Loop Road is another ‘must see’ attraction point in Custer Park. As the animals in this park are mostly active in the morning and late evening, visitors are advised to make a point of availing themselves at this time.

What are animals in South Dakota?

From the climatic conditions in this area, it is easy to tell the wildlife present in this region. The temperate grassland state is filled with a lot of tree-filled mountains and hills, rivers, and lakes. A variety of different species exist in different climatic condition and geographical location which is divided between semi-arid and humid continental climates.

The national grasslands in South Dakota are three in number, the national forests are two, and the protected National Park Service sites are countless. There are no urban areas in the state which makes it advantageous once it comes to being a habitat of a variety of wildlife. The state fish of the state is the Walleye, the state bird is the ring-necked Chinese pheasant and the official animal is the Coyote. There are other wild animals in this state as well.

Overview of animals in South Dakota

Mountain Goats
Mule Deer
Mountain Lions
Marmots
The American Red Squirrel
Prairie Dogs
Bighorn Sheep
Antelope
Bison
Ring-Necked Chinese Pheasant
American Goldfinch
Prairie Grouse
Waterfowl
The Red-bellied Woodpecker
Mourning Dove
Walleyes
Paddlefish
Coyote

 

Mountain Animals

As earlier discussed, South Dakota has plenty of hills and mountains which happens to be the habitat of unique wildlife not found elsewhere in the state. The animals in these regions have adapted to the higher elevations and the climatic conditions in the mountains.

Mountain Goats

Mountain Goats - animals in South Dakota

As crazy as it sounds, goats are scavenging Mt. Rushmore in the state of South Dakota. Although the mountain goats are not native, they are adapted to the rocky hills of South Dakota. It is believed that the goats in this region are descendants of six escaped goats. The goats escaped in the 1920s from a zoo in Custer State Park. The best time for checking out these animals is in the mornings when they are seen strolling the side of the mountains.

The rocky goats are sure-footed and inhabit the alpine environment of North America. They have unique climbing abilities and have hooves that are cloven and spread toes to improve their balance. They are powerful creatures and can jump up to 12feets in a single jump. They have long and warm coats and distinctive beards that protect them against the cold climatic condition of South Dakota. During the hot summer weather conditions, the goats shed off these coats as an adaptability mechanism.

Fun Facts

The female rocky goats are called nannies and their young ones are known as kids. They move in small herds of about 20 animals for most of the year. The males are known as billies and are usually alone for the better part of the year.

Just like humans, the rocky goats give birth to one or two kids. They feed on mosses, grasses, plants, and all alpine vegetation. Both the males and females have horns and sometimes, during the mating seasons, the males use these horns to fight rivals.

Best Place to Encounter Mountain Goats

The primary habitat of the mountain goats is at Mt. Rushmore where they are estimated to be over two hundred goats in the area. The best time for checking out these animals is in the mornings when they are seen strolling the side of the mountains.

Mule Deer

Mule Deer - animals in South Dakota

Mule Deer are mostly found near Mt. Rushmore. They hide in the shades in summer and feed in the early mornings and the late evening. During winter, they are more active during the day. They feed on grasses, plants, wildflowers, and shrubs.

 

Mountain Lions

The lions in this region are widely known throughout the continents. They are also known as the panthers, pumas, or cougars. These types of lions are hard to find as they are sneaky and nocturnal. The lions have been estimated to be approximately 300 in number in all of the State’s hills.

Mountain Lions - animals in South Dakota

Where to find Mountain Lions

The mountain lions are found in the black hills of South Dakota. However, National Gap Analysis has it that pumas can exist elsewhere within the state. The Black Hills are an extension of the Rocky Mountains and are found in west-central South Dakota.

 

Marmots

The yellow-bellied marmots are a bunch of other animals found on the trail to Mount Rushmore during the hot summer. However, they are inactive from October to late April. The yellow-bellied marmots feed on seeds, grasses, and other plants with broad leaves.

Marmots

 

The American Red Squirrel

American Red Squirrel - animals in South Dakota

The American Red Squirrel loves to live in mature trees such as the ponderosa pines which are mostly found at Mt. Rushmore. They feed on green pine cones and store some to eat during winter. Other than the green pine cones, the red squirrels also feed on fruits, mushrooms, insects, flowers, tree buds, and small mammals.

Prairie Animals

The Great Plains, a region in South Dakota State is found between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River. The animals in this region have adapted to the changing climatic conditions in this area. The weather alternates between hot summers and cold winters. In the summer, the animals search for water and food for a very long distance. The animals in this region are the Bison and the Prairie Dogs.

Prairie Dogs

Prairie Dogs - animals in South Dakota

Although there are five different species of prairie dogs in North America, there is only one common prairie dog in South Dakota known as the black-tailed prairie dog happens to be a distant relative of squirrels. They are compared to dogs because of their mode of communication (shrill barks). The dogs live in small burrow groups known as the colonies. The dogs are very intelligent to the extent of coming up with different calls for different predators that are different from the calls made once it is safe to be on the outside.

Where to find Prairie Dogs

The best location to view the prairie dogs is at Roberts Prairie Dog Town in South Dakota. The town is found in the badlands. This is the place to be for a breathtaking adventure of a lifetime. You can also find them in the grasslands at the Wind Cave National Park near Bison,

 

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

 The unique exclusive bighorn sheep are found in the Badlands National Park. They can be seen trailing along the rocky walls close to Canyon Lake Road. The sheep are also found in the Custer State Park and the Black Hills.

Antelope

Antelope - animals in South Dakota

The antelopes, also called the pronghorn are found in the western region of South Dakota. After the Cheetah, these animals are next in line when it comes to speed. The best place to look for them is at the Custer State Park on Wildlife Loop Road. Both the bucks and the does have horns although a male grows longer than that a female.

Bison

In the late 1980s, the Bison were also extinct due to overhunting in North America. Recently, they are found in large herds roaming the national parks in South Dakota; Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, and the Custer State Park. The bison are very comfortable in Custer State Park and have become accustomed to cars frequently bringing in tourists.

Bison

Bison are usually confused with Buffalos. Just to make it clear, a bison is not a buffalo. They both have large bodies, horns and are ox-like but are two different creatures. The buffalos are native to Africa and Asia nations and the bison are native to North America and Europe.

Where to find Bison in South Dakota

The Bison can be found in the Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, and Wind Cave National Park. The Bison are common along the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park. The drivers are already used to sitting in traffic jams caused by the animals carelessly crossing the roads afraid of the moving vehicles. In the badlands, the Bison van is seen roaming the northern edge of the park near Sage Creek Rim Road. They are also found in the grasslands of the Wind Cave Park near the prairie dogs and forest edges.

Birds

As earlier the ring-necked Chinese pheasant is the official bird of the South Dakota State. These birds are rarely found in other places around the wetlands of South Dakota

Ring-Necked Chinese Pheasant

Ring-Necked Chinese Pheasant - animals in South Dakota

The Chinese ring-necked pheasant birds are the state official birds of South Dakota. They are also native to Asia although they are considered a game species. South Dakota is their main and perfect habitat due to the availability of a lot of food to eat and abundant grasslands. The male pheasants are called the rooster. They are brightly colored with green, red, and orange shades. The females are called hens and are brown and tan.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

There are no birds as colorful as the male American Goldfinches especially in the warm months in South Dakota. They have bright yellow backs, medium-sized black tails with long black wings. The female differs as they have a much dull coloration as compared to the male. However, both the male and the female adopt a brown plumage. They prefer to have the overgrown and weedy areas as their habitats. They can also be found in orchards, backyards, and parks. These are definitely worthy mentions in our list of animals in South Dakota.

Prairie Grouse

Prairie Grouse

Prairie grouse is a collective name used for prairie chicken and sharp-tailed grouse. The native birds are closely related and are found in the prairie landscapes in Western and Central South Dakota. Hunting of these birds usually occurs in the grasslands and can also occur in the field edges and the cropland. The birds are most often found in covey that increases throughout the seasons.

Waterfowl

Waterfowl - animals in South Dakota

Waterfowls are birds found in South Dakota and are also known as Anseriformes. They exist in three different families i.e. the Anhimidae, Anatidae, and Anseranatidae. The largest family is the Anatidae in which the waterfowls, ducks, swans, and geese fall. Dakota is the perfect habitat for these birds, geese, ducks, and other birds that are addicted to water. To the east of South Dakota is the Prairie Pothole Region surrounded by large amounts of ponds and sloughs which make a good nursery for godlings and ducks.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker

The Red-bellied Woodpecker

The red-bellied woodpeckers are pretty birds with zebra-like stripes that are found on the mount tops of South Dakota. They have red spots on their tummies and hence the name ‘red-bellied woodpecker’.  The birds prefer hardwoods like the hickory and oak trees. Their love for peanuts, suet, and fruits is undeniable.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

The mourning doves have a light brown or gray coloration on their backs. The wing is large and broad and the tails are long and pointed.  Mourning doves are unique and prefer shallow woods, farms, and parks. When roaming the city, don’t be surprised to come across a dove or two. Their main diet is corns, nyjer thistle, and white proso millet.

Fishes

Walleyes

Walleyes - animals in South Dakota

Walleyes are also called yellow pickerel or yellow pike. Walleyes are common fish in the Missouri River in South Dakota. These fish have a large lifespan of up to 20 years and can travel over a very long distance in a night to find food. The diet is limited to small insects, crustaceans, and other small fish.

Paddlefish

Paddlefish

The best location to find a paddlefish is in the open waters which flows freely and unchanneled rivers. The paddlefish is the oldest and the weirdest fish in South Dakota’s lakes. These fish have had minimal to no evaluation for over a 125million years. They use signals called rostrum to paddle and their food is plankton. The signals are electric. Their tail is divided unequally and they have no scales or teeth and this is why they are considered weird. Their bodies are tubular-shaped and the paddles are large and shaped like a snout.

In Gavin’s dam, a limited number of licenses is given to both residents and non-residents to snag a few fish. In Lk. Francis Case limited license is given to only the residents.

Where to find the Paddlefish

 The paddlefish in South Dakota are mostly found in two locations along Missouri and Mississippi rivers. That is at Lk. Francis Case which is near Chamberlain mostly in May and also at Gavin’s Point Dam around Yankton in October.

Coyote

Coyote - animals in South Dakota

 The coyote is another one of the animals in South Dakota State. The coyotes are mindful and are most active in the evening and early morning. During the day, they are found to be resting and only move once disturbed. During the winter, they are in the daytime when it is warm. There are no restrictions when it comes to hunting coyotes, hunters are allowed by the U.S Forest Service of the National Grasslands to hunt under certain traveling conditions and restrictions. In the Custer State Park, hunting session is allowed before sunrise and late evening after sunset daily from 26th December to 30th April.

 

Summary of animals in South Dakota

South Dakota is probably the best place to visit. Other than the astonishing and unique animals in the state, there are also monuments and other incredible sites worth seeing. Here is an interesting article about animals in Quebec that you should see before leaving. Stay safe.