Governor’s Award for History

8 Apr


We received the Governor’s Award for History this past weekend and wanted to share the award with you! The print in the photo is “The Debut of the Younger Sisters.” The illustration depicts North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Washington upon their admittance to the United States on February 22, 1889. It originally appeared in the March 13, 1889, issue of “Puck” magazine. The artist was L.J. Taylor.

TOC’s Lewis and Clark Program Honored

31 Mar
Lewis and Clark had to employ a lot of outdoor skills to survive their journey.

Lewis and Clark had to employ a lot of outdoor skills to survive their journey.

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota State Historical Society will be presenting the Governor’s Awards for History on Saturday, April 5, during its annual history conference in Pierre.Three individuals and two organizations are being recognized by the State Historical Society for their efforts in preserving state history.

The award winners include Barbara Johnson of Aberdeen, Steve Olson of Watertown, Harl A. Dalstrom of Omaha, Neb., The Outdoor Campus of Sioux Falls and the Whitewood Public Library in Whitewood.

“These people and organizations are to be commended for their efforts at preserving our state’s history,” said Gov. Dennis Daugaard. “Because of their work, our past will be kept alive for future generations in South Dakota.”

“We are pleased to give out these awards,” added Jay D. Vogt, director of the State Historical Society. “These are just a few of the shining examples of how people across the state and beyond are helping us in our efforts to promote, nurture and sustain South Dakota history.”

The Outdoor Campus is an organizational winner. The organization has been doing “a history lesson with a twist” for many years, as every year hundreds of Sioux Falls-area fourth graders come to The Outdoor Campus to learn about Lewis and Clark, who explored the Louisiana Purchase for President Jefferson from 1804-1806. The hands-on history lesson focuses on the outdoor skills the Corps of Discovery needed to survive their journey north and south in South Dakota.

A second organizational winner is the Whitewood Public Library. The commitment of the library staff to gather and file historical information about their small historical Black Hills town just west of Sturgis on Interstate 90 is commendable. Their history-gathering mission resulted in several publications comprising the Whitewood Library Historical Collection, noting the 125-year history of Whitewood in 2013. Staff assisted Whitewood sixth graders in publishing “A Journey Through Time: Whitewood Schools, 1888-2013.”

The State Historical Society is headquartered at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. For more information, visit or call (605) 773-3458.


Biology is SO COOL!

17 Mar

by Thea

Nobody ever told me biology was THIS COOL. I recently got to write a story for SD Game, Fish and Parks biologists about a new doe and fawn study we are doing in McCook and Lake Counties in South Dakota. The release and a link to a video about the study are attached. Check it out. You’ll wish you were a biologist!


GFP Conducts Helicopter Assisted White-tailed Deer Survival Study in Lake and McCook Counties

PIERRE, S.D. – Residents of McCook and Lake Counties had a different view in the sky earlier this month. A helicopter with trained wildlife wranglers dangled in the sky to assist with capturing 50 deer for the Department of Game, Fish and Parks’ (GFP) new doe and fawn survival study.

“Over the last few weeks, we connected with landowners in the two counties for permission to do the study on their land, and signed up over 50,000 acres for the study,” said Julie DeJong, regional wildlife manager. “The support of interested landowners has been crucial in this research project.”

A company out of California, Native Range Capture Services, was hired to assist South Dakota wildlife biologists with capturing does to study their survival, as well as the survival of their spring fawns. The helicopter crew, comprised of a pilot, a net gunner and a “mugger,” were dispatched in early March over the herd to first shoot a net at deer. Then, the mugger jumped from the helicopter onto the ground to wrestle the deer, tied its legs like a cowboy does a steer and blindfolded it to calm the animal.

“After untangling the doe from the net, the mugger then attached a radio-collar and inserted a vaginal implant transmitter (VIT). The VIT will stay in the doe until she gives birth, and will assist researchers in locating fawns soon after birth. Each doe was given a shot of penicillin and was released on site,” DeJong said.

Both the collars and the VIT transmit a series of slow beeps which can be picked up by researchers using a GFP truck equipped with a specialized radio receiver.  The radio collars beep faster if a deer is stopped in one location for more than eight hours, DeJong said, usually indicating a death. The VIT transmitters are temperature sensitive and will speed up when they are expelled with the fawn.

Right now, the biologists track the collared does every seven to 10 days, driving around the two counties until all 50 does are found. They plan to spend a lot of time in the areas at the end of May when most fawns are born.

“The second part of the study involves capturing the fawns and attaching radio transmitters,” she said. “Radio-collared fawns will be monitored once every seven to 10 days for a year. Locating the fawns will involve spotlighting and walking searches.”

The public can assist in the research by contacting GFP if they find a fawn in the wild.

“But do not disturb, pick up or detain the fawn,” she said. “This could lead to abandonment by the mother. GFP personnel utilize specific procedures to reduce those chances of abandonment.”

Three-fourths of this project is paid for by federal matching funds that are acquired through a tax from the sale of guns and ammunition. The remaining funds are from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses in South Dakota.

“Deer are such an important resource to the people of our state; not only for hunters, but for others who just enjoy seeing deer in the wild. Knowledge of the number of does and fawns that survive from one year to the next is vital information for estimating population trends and making sound tag allocations. Hunters are encouraged to treat collared does like any other doe as we want to get a close estimate of the doe survival in McCook and Lake Counties and hunting mortality is a component of that estimate,” DeJong concluded.

For more information, please contact Julie DeJong at 605.362.2700. To better understand this study, video footage is available; please check out the three-minute YouTube clip here:

More from the Trail Cam

11 Mar

We’re adding some photos here that you haven’t seen on our Facebook site. We have learned so much from our trail cam!

See the rabbit?

See the rabbit?

Do you see why this one scared us when we first saw it? That's the fox, minus the fur on his tail.

Do you see why this one scared us when we first saw it? That’s not a large cat – it’s a fox with mange. Its fur on the tail is missing.

Do you see the bird in the lower right corner?

Do you see the bird in the lower right corner?

Can you spot the bird in the lower right corner?

Can you spot the bird in the lower right corner?

What are these two up to?

What are these two up to?



What’s It Like to Be a Critter in the Cold?

24 Feb
How cold is it?

How cold is it?

Animals have some astonishing adaptations that help them get through winter. Our new trail cam, placed near a deceased deer in our park has shown us some incredible photos of animals surviving the harshness of our South Dakota winters.

The raccoon missing a tail is one of the carcass’ regular visitors. We see him at 4 degrees fahrenheit and -4 degrees. He’s tough. Does his missing tail have anything to do with the cold? It could!


It’s 14 degrees Fahrenheit when this buck comes to visit .

The State of Maine, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department has a fantastic article about how deer stay warm in winter.

    •  Northern deer have larger body size than deer further south. This is true of all mammals, in that body size increases as you progress northward. Large body size conserves energy better because of a lower surface to mass ratio.
    • Deer shed their hair coat in the spring and fall. The red summer hair has solid shafts and lacks an undercoat, but the gray-brown winter coat has hollow hair shafts and a dense, wool-like under fur, providing effective insulation.
    • Deer have special muscles that can adjust the angle of their hair shafts to obtain maximum insulation.
    • During the fall, deer accumulate and store body fat under their skin and around internal organs. This serves both as insulation and energy reserve for the rigors of the winter ahead.
The fox visits when it's -12 degrees F.

The fox visits when it’s -12 degrees F.

It’s a biting -12 degrees F. when the fox comes to visit. He’s mostly interested in eating to keep his body fat. New Hampshire’s Fish and Game department published a story about fox in winter, saying that they stay warm by growing a “long winter coat. An adult fox  rarely retreats to a den during the winter, but will instead curl into a ball  in the open, using its bushy tail to wrap around its nose and footpads. Many times, they can be found completely  blanketed in snow.”Adapting to cold is vital for animals in South Dakota. We’ll keep updating you on what we learn from our trail cam. You can also follow it on our Facebook page.

Judging a Kids Writing Contest

27 Nov

When I was in third grade, I won a poetry contest. Since then, I’ve loved entering my writing into different competitions. I faired decently, and the chance to see what I’d written published in a book or magazine was exciting. Once, I even got to read what I had written on the radio.

So in looking at the fun things we could do for South Dakota Conservation Digest: Kids Edition this year, I suggested we ask for submissions. This is a magazine for kids, so why shouldn’t some content be by kids?

Though originally slated for two pages, the submissions have been given a third page in the magazine.

Though originally slated for two pages, the submissions have been given a third page in the magazine.

Well, Thea, ever open-minded and ready to try something new, decided to let me go for it. Thanks to a bit of help from Kay, our TOC teacher resource center coordinator, and program specialist Emilie Miller in Pierre, we were able to get word out that we were looking for some South Dakota kids to put pen to paper and tell us about the outdoors.

Now, putting forth a campaign like this brings the same anxiety as throwing a party: What if nobody shows up? For the first week or so after I’d shipped off the notices, I started to get apprehensive. If nobody submitted, not only would I have to fill two pages of the magazine in a less exciting way, but I’d be bummed that my childhood interest in writing wasn’t reflected in today’s youth.

Looking back, the fear of no entries is laughable. About two weeks in, I got a few contest questions. Then entries started coming in. A short story here, one or two there. We’d left it open to either accounts of real experiences or fiction writing, and both came in slowly. A few poems began to join the procession, and then the floodgates burst open and the submissions filled my desk.

The two short stories and four poems selected will appear in the 2014 issue.

The two short stories and four poems selected will appear in the 2014 issue of South Dakota Conservation Digest: Kids Edition.

That may be a bit of an exaggeration; the numbers stayed (mostly) manageable. But thanks to a few schools using the contest in conjunction with class assignments and some great response from young writers-in-the-making, when we hit the deadline I was feeling a very different kind of apprehension: How am I going to choose winners from the 200 short stories and 75 poems submitted?

I was elated with the response, but at that point I realized that in all those contests I had done as a child, somebody had to pour over every single entry to find the one or two kids who would win. And now that was going to have to be me.

It helped that the submissions were fun. Kids wrote about times they loved being outside, the animals they saw, the time mom or dad took them kayaking and all sorts of other things. It made me chuckle every time someone used the phrase “my dad forced me” when writing about their first hunting experience, but by the end they seemed to be drinking in the South Dakota outdoors.

Choosing was a difficult process, but I was proud of every submission and want to thank everybody who participated.

Pinterest? We love it, too!

18 Oct
Are you a Pinterest fan? We are! We have lots of great Pinterest boards - check them out when you have time!

Are you a Pinterest fan? We are! We have lots of great Pinterest boards – check them out when you have time!

Check out our Pinterest boards here!


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