This is a quick reference guide to the fascinating South Dakota nature. Visitors are drawn to the state's recreation and wildlife-watching opportunities, discovering off-the-beaten-path treasures in a myriad of sprawling national and state parks. The Prairie Plains are covered by thick, tall grasses of about 3 feet or more. Wooded areas lie mainly in the Black Hills, along the river valleys, and on the fascinating buttes or ridges that rise in the northwestern and southwestern parts of the state. Custer State Park is home to free-roaming bison. Other animals found in the Black Hills include antelope, deer, elk, beaver, bobcat, and porcupine. Coyotes and cottontail rabbits are plentiful throughout the state's nature, while jackrabbits and prairie dogs vary in concentration in specific areas. South Dakota also has nearly 300 species of birds. Bald and golden eagles are found in ever-increasing numbers along the Missouri River valley and in the Badlands. Below you will find some useful information about animals and plants that live in this area.
The Walleye is a freshwater perciform fish native to most of Canada and to the northern United States. Walleyes grow to about 30 in in length, and weigh up to about 15 lb. The maximum recorded size for the fish is 42 in in length and 25 lb in weight. In general, females grow larger than males. A fascinating fact is that Walleyes may live for decades; the maximum recorded age is 29 years. In heavily fished populations, however, few walleye older than 5 or 6 years of age are encountered. The walleye is often considered to have the best tasting flesh of any freshwater fish, and, consequently, is fished recreationally and commercially.
Another fascinating animal is the coyote, also called prairie wolf is a member of the Canidae (dog) family and a relative of the domestic dog. Coyotes are native to North America and are only found from Canada south to Costa Rica. The coyote stands less than 2 feet tall and varies in color from white-gray to tan with sometimes a reddish tint to its coat. Coyotes are essentially nocturnal, but they will occasionally hunt during the day unless threatened by predators or humans. Coyotes mate for life. They breed around the month of February and four to six pups are born in late April or early May.
The Black Hills Spruce is noted for its dark green foliage and conical form. Black Hills Spruce trees are very dense and have a deep dark green color. It is a truly cold adapted tree and is very resistant to winter injury. It prefers rich moist soil in full sun, and also thrives in dry, well-drained sites. An important part of the Black Hills nature this evergreen conifer tree has a medium growth rate and requires little, if any, pruning. Mature height of a Black Hills Spruce is about 40 feet.
The American pasqueflower, named for its resemblance to the European species, is a bluish, open bell-shaped wildflower of the prairie regions of North America. As a herald of spring and a symbol of old age (from the silvery heads of feathery seeds), the plant has been made the subject of Plains Indian song and legend. A fascinating fact is that it contains a poison and is an irritant when fresh, but the crushed leaves were applied by Native Americans as a counterirritant in cases of rheumatism and neuralgia.
In 1622, first European colonists brought the honey bee to the Americas. The Native Americans called the honey bee "the white man's fly". Honey bees did not naturally cross the Rocky Mountains; they were carried by ship to California in the early 1850s. Honey bees collect flower nectar and convert it to honey which is stored in their hives. Nectar and honey provide the energy for the bees' flight muscles and for heating the hive during the winter period. Honey bees also collect pollen which supplies protein and fat for bee brood to grow.
The Ring-Necked Pheasant is larger than a chicken. The tail is long and pointed, that of the female's being shorter than the male's. The Ring-Necked Pheasant prefers farmlands, pastures and grassy woodland edges. Adult Ring-Necked Pheasants feed on berries, seeds, buds and leaves; chicks feed largely on insects. Ring-Necked Pheasants get by with a minimum of cover, often nesting on the outskirts of cities.