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Lewis and Clark

Wildlife Discovery

Wildlife DiscoveryThe expedition made significant discoveries for the animal kingdom.

Here's a look at the "ark" of critters the party collected while in present-day South Dakota. Watch for these animals on our river bluffs and open prairies as you trace the explorers' route.

Wild goats

Clark bagged the expedition's first pronghorn in present-day Lyman County. In their journals, both captains referred to the animals as wild goats. Lewis wrote this description on Sept. 14, 1804: "They apear to run with more ease and to bound with greater agility than any anamall I ever saw." Today, we know that these graceful creatures routinely reach speeds of 60 mph.

Barking squirrels

Prairie DogsThe party discovered prairie dogs in the vicinity of Gregory County. It took nearly all day for the men to flush one of these furry critters out of its underground tunnel. They called the animals "barking squirrels" because of their resemblance to the rodents they knew back home. The reference to barking comes from the chattering noise the prairie dogs make.

Prairie Wolves

They'd heard the distinctive howls at night, but they didn't get their first coyote specimen until Sept. 17, 1804. It was north of Chamberlain that the hunters brought in a "Small wolf with a large bushey tail," according to Clark's journal. That same day, Lewis brought in a "remarkable bird." Clark went on to describe the black-billed magpie, a species not known to exist in the New World.

Buffalo

BuffaloTime and again, the captains recorded seeing buffalo by the hundreds (and sometimes thousands) on the rolling prairies. Joseph Fields shot the party's first buffalo on Aug. 23, 1804, in the southeastern tip of what is now South Dakota. The animals provided an excellent food source for the men, who ate well while in South Dakota. Between buffalo, elk and deer, each man ate about nine pounds of meat a day!