Friends Of Wind Cave NP

Friends of Wind Cave National Park Winter 2022
Notes from the President
I am very pleased to send out my first “Notes from the President” for our periodic newsletter. I came on
the board following my retirement from Black Hills Parks and Forests Association in 2014. I have been
involved with Wind Cave from the time as a grade school student in Custer going on field trips to the
cave, then in exploration beginning in the late ‘70’s, on the Board of Directors of the Wind Cave Jewel
Cave Natural History Association, which became Black Hills Parks and Forests Association with the
addition of Custer State Park and the Black Hills National Forest and becoming Executive Director of the
Association in 1996. So, Wind Cave has had a special place in my life for many years and I have enjoyed
serving on the board of the Friends as well. I look forward to working with our new officers, board and
members, and the staff at Wind Cave to further the goals of the Friends and Wind Cave National Park. It
is always exciting to begin new projects for the park and the Friends. Please reach out to me with any
concerns and suggestions via our website or Face Book page anytime. We are always looking for new
board members, so please consider that opportunity.
Steve Baldwin, President
Friends of Wind Cave National Park
Friends of Wind Cave News
The Friends of Wind Cave met in January for our annual meeting and election of officers, and we
welcomed two new board members: Randy Peterson of Spearfish has been our website guru for several
years and Connie Putnam of Rapid City. Officers elected for the next year are:
President – Steve Baldwin
Vice-president – Jim Brickey
Treasurer – Bob Hodorff
Secretary – Colin Keeler
Marcy Dimond agreed to stay on as membership chair and communications coordinator.
We would all like to thank Steve Sewell for his service to the Friends of Wind Cave. Steve stepped down
from the board was after 7 years of service. He was the treasurer for 4 years. Steve’s dedication to the
“Friends” and to Wind Cave National Park was unparalleled and he will be missed on the board.
We would also like to thank Don DeVries for his tenure as president. Don will remain on the board as a
Cave exploration
In 1994, on the west edge of Wind Cave a 70’pit, called Necessary Evil was discovered (the only pit
requiring ropes in the cave). In July 1994, returning with ropes and vertical equipment, the survey was
continued and an area called the “Lunatic Fringe was discovered and partially surveyed. This survey
extended the past the historical western boundary of the cave. Over two miles of cave was found in the
Lunatic Fringe.
In September, 2019 this area was revisited and a bypass to the Necessary Evil drop was found and
another area of the cave was discovered and named Revenge Fantasy. To date almost two miles of this
large cave has been surveyed. In these surveys several animal skeletons have been found. One of the
skeletons was that of a pine martin that was dated to 11,700 years old, suggesting that an older
entrance may have once existed in this area of the cave.
In November, 2021, exploration continued in Revenge Fantasy, finding one of the largest rooms in the
cave which was named Continuing Resolution. In the new room there are animal skeletons, big pits,
canyons and walking leads in every direction.
To facilitate the survey a base camp was established. Using a base camp as a hub the surveyors can
spend more time surveying and less time travelling to and from.
The Friends of Wind Cave have decided to help fund further surveys into this area of the cave. This
could include supplies for the base camp or for conducting the survey. These are exciting times in the
cave. As of March 2022 4000 feet of new cave has been mapped.
Wind Cave National Park News
There has been a steady trickle of winter visitors touring the cave. There are tours daily of the Garden of
Eden (1 hour long, 150 stairs) at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and a tour of the Fairgrounds (1.5 hours long and 450
stairs) at 1 p.m. If you haven’t taken a tour recently, the off-season is a great time to beat the crowds and
tour the world’s sixth-longest cave.
Warm winter days are also a great time to hike along one of the park’s 30 miles of hiking trails. This is an
opportunity to beat the summer’s heat and enjoy the solitude of a mixed-grass prairie.
Interpretive rangers will start their full-summer program schedule on Sunday, June 5. The park expects to
be back to pre-pandemic programing, with evening programs at the Elk Mountain Campground,
Candlelight Tours, Wild Cave Tours, and tours of the Sanson Buffalo Jump. The first cave tour of the day
will begin at 8:40 a.m. with the last tour entering the cave at 5 p.m. Masks are still required on tours and
in park facilities.
New this year is the ability to make reservations using The park plans to start taking
cave tour reservations by the end of February with a mixture of tickets available by reservation with
others available for walk-up traffic the day of the tour. Reservations for sites at the Elk Mountain
Campground will be available later this spring.
The park recently received word that funding for new visitor center exhibits has been approved. The
design phase of the project was completed last year. The project will go out for bid later this year with
installation planned for the winter of 2023/24. These new exhibits will replace the existing 30-year-old
exhibits and tell a more complete story of Wind Cave National Park.
Friends’ Stories (The newsletter section where stories are shared)
For some reason in the summer of 2021, American licorice (Glycyrrhiza
lepidota) flourished in the Black Hills. I know this because I have a golden
retriever and after every trip to the hills I spent an obscene amount of
time pulling licorice burrs out of her fur. It is a native species to most of
North America and the seed from this plant develops into a medium sized
burr about the size of a peanut. And, it sticks to everything- especially
long haired dogs and Bison. Catching a ride on different animals is an
effective method to find a new place to grow. Non-the-less it is annoying
to us dispersing agents.
A fun fact: The VELCRO® brand of hook and loop was invented by
George de Mestral in the 1940’s while hunting in the Jura Mountains in
Switzerland. Mr. de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, realized that the tiny hooks of the cockle-burrs were
stuck on his pants and in his dog’s fur and wondered how they attached themselves.
Last summer one of the themes of my photographic excursions to Wind Cave National Park was
finding bison with their heads literally covered with wild licorice burrs. One cannot help but wonder
how those animals ever get rid of the burrs. With my dog, the longer we let them stay on her the
more entwined they become and the harder they are to remove. In many cases, it involves holding a
squirming whiny dog down to pull burrs out and often times ends up with just taking a scissors and
cutting them out. The end result is a dog with a very strange haircut, especially evident when big
patches of fur are cut out of her tail- but like dad always said, “The difference between a good
haircut and a bad haircut is 2 weeks.” So how do the bison get rid of them?? Do they rub them
off?? Do they lose them when they molt?? I have not seen any Park Rangers running through the
bison herd with a comb and a scissors.
As I was in deep thought about the burrs, I noticed that not all of the bison had burrs on them. In
fact it was just a few that were literally covered with them. This set me into one of my “wondering
why” modes. I know I am not suppose place human traits and thought processes to nonhuman or
abstract things. I actually do not think I am doing this when I recognize that all of us are different.
We all have our own personalities, and so do animals. Anyone that has had more than one dog
knows that. Each dog that I have really gotten to know has a very distinct personality.
I had the opportunity to work on a research project studying black bears in northern Minnesota in the
late 1970’s. The bears were initially trapped and fitted with radio collars and because they denned in
the winter, the bears could be tracked to their dens and the collars could be changed every year.
The result was that individual bears could be followed for their entire lives. Researchers could get to
know these animals on an individual basis and one could start to identify different personality traits of
each bear. There were a few very skittish bears. We knew we could not mark their dens until there
was a foot of snow over them because the slightest disturbance would cause them to abandon their
dens and find a new one.
Most black bears have one set of cubs every two years. Black bear cubs are born in the dens during
the winter and these cubs as yearlings den with their mother their first winter. On this study because
dens were visited each year the survival rate of the cubs could be determined accurately at least for
the first year. One of the radioed bears followed during this project was dubbed the “best mother in
the woods”. This particular bear would have 4 cubs and very seldom lost any of her cubs while they
were under her watchful eye.
Back to the Wind Cave Bison and the question of why are some covered with burrs and others not?
The short answer is that I don’t know and I don’t know of any research into the topic. That leaves
me to wonder: Are the ones that are covered with burrs just sort of clueless? Do they go back to
the herd and the rest of them shake their heads and wonder why don’t the just avoid the licorice
patches?? What do the girl bison think when their man shows up with a head full of burrs?? Do
they make a mistake once and avoid the licorice patches in the future?? Do they eat the licorice or is
there good stuff to eat amongst the licorice and having a few burs on their head is just an
unfortunate consequence of a tasty meal?? Or is it all chance??
It’s a fun thing to think about while watching one of the most iconic animals of the North American
I still have the fantasy that someone else may have a story about the Park to share.
Give me a call – Bob Hodorff 605-890-2329.