CUSTER STATE PARK, S.D. – Authorities say a mounted guide who was leading a family of four on a trail ride in Custer State Park prevented a possible disaster when she put her horse in front of a charging buffalo.
Park Superintendent Matt Snyder says a large bull buffalo attacked the group of riders Friday morning in the southwest part of the park. The buffalo knocked the guide off of her horse, which spooked the other four horses into spilling their riders, according to the Rapid City Journal.
There were no serious injuries, though the riders were transported to Custer Regional Hospital for examination.
"My staff said they were in good spirits. Shook up, but handling it well," Snyder said of the five riders.
Officials with a Sioux Falls-based company that operates Custer State Park Resort Co., which sponsored the ride, said the guide wanted to remain anonymous.
"It happened very, very fast, and she took the brunt of the blow from the buffalo," said Ryan Flick, director of operations for the resort company. "I would say it was definitely heroic and I'm very proud of her."
Snyder says bulls are currently in rut, the time in the mating season when an animal that is already unpredictable can become even more erratic. With a herd of about 1,300 animals, encounters with humans are not uncommon, he said.
"These animals are not tame," Snyder said. "They're wild and totally unpredictable. Normally, you can keep your distance from a buffalo, but in the full rut, anything can happen."
Friday's incident was the fifth visitor encounter with the species this year, including two that resulted in serious injuries.
"This was a reminder for everybody that this is not a petting zoo," Flick said.