State parks and surrounding areas offer natural habitat to hundreds of animal species. In any visit, you are very likely to encounter some wildlife. Being knowledgeable about the wildlife, their behaviors and habitats will help in knowing where to go, what to look for and when to adjust your behavior to ensure a peaceful, fun experience for all.
Tips for respecting wildlife and viewing them safely
- Keep a safe distance and stay alert - if the animal changes its behavior, appears startled or notices you, you are too close.
- Never approach or attempt to touch wildlife! Use binoculars and zoom lenses to observe and photograph wildlife from a safe distance.
- Do not follow or chase animals and do not let children or pets do this either. If the animal is moving away from you, it is a sign that they need more space.
- Never feed wildlife, no matter how small or accustomed they are. Human food is unhealthy for the animals and this practice makes the dependent on people for food, often detrimental to their survival.
- Never stop or block traffic. If you spot wildlife while driving, avoid stopping abruptly. Look for a place where you can slowly and fully pull off the road to park.
- Keep pets in the vehicle or secured on a leash at a long distance, as they may frighten or provoke wildlife.
South Dakota snowmobiling rules and regulations were established to protect those who enjoy the sport. Park rangers routinely patrol South Dakota's groomed trail system to provide law enforcement and safety.
No person may operate a snowmobile on a state snowmobile trail or area established pursuant to SDCL 41-19; unless the snowmobile has a curb weight of less than 1,400 pounds, is an engine-driven vehicle of a type which uses sled type runners or skis with an endless belt tread or similar means of contact with the surface upon which it is operated and the vehicle does not exceed forty-eight inches in width.
Snowmobile operators* must immediately report an accident to a law enforcement officer if the accident:
- Is on public lands, frozen public waters or any private lands leased for public snowmobile use
- Results in damage to a snowmobile or other property in excess of $1,000
- Results in death or injury requiring medical attention to any person
*If the operator of the snowmobile is physically incapable of filing a report, then someone acting for him/her must file.
No person shall operate a snowmobile upon private land without permission from the owner or lessee of the land. This provision does not apply to snowmobiles operating in public road rights-of-way.
Motorcycle Trail Pass
32-20A-25. Permit to operate motorcycle as a snowmobile. Any resident owner who has titled a motorcycle which has been modified to comply with the definition of a snowmobile for use as a snowmobile on a state snowmobile trail or area established pursuant to the provisions of chapter 41-19 may purchase an annual permit valid from Dec. 1 - Mar. 31, inclusive, for a fee of $20. The permit shall be affixed to the motorcycle on the right side of the unit and shall be clearly visible. The Department of Game, Fish and Parks shall collect the annual permit fee imposed by this section and shall deposit the fees in the snowmobile trails fund established by 32-5-9.2.
No person may operate a snowmobile in the following manner:
- At a speed that is greater than is reasonable or prudent
- In any reckless way as to endanger another person or property
- Without a functioning muffler
There is no age limitation for the operation of a snowmobile. However, no person under the age of fourteen may drive a snowmobile across a roadway except under the immediate direction of a parent, legal guardian, or person who is eighteen years of age or older. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Interstate Highways and Railroads
Snowmobiles may not be operated upon or across an interstate highway, except that it may cross in the ditch of an underpass or on the extreme right of an overpass. Snowmobiles may not be operated upon any railroad right-of-way, unless directly crossing after stopping and yielding the right-of-way to approaching railroad traffic.
Operation in Ditches
Properly registered and licensed snowmobiles may operate in either right or left-hand ditches when traveling along designated state snowmobile trails. In other ditches, not designated as state snowmobile trails, snowmobiles may only be operated in the right hand ditch.
Firearms on Snowmobiles
No person other than a law enforcement officer or any person on the person's own land or land leased by the person may operate or ride in any snowmobile with any firearm in the person's possession unless the firearm is completely unloaded and within a carrying case which encloses the entire firearm. These provisions do not apply to any person who is carrying a pistol and possesses a valid permit to carry a concealed pistol.
Hunting From Snowmobiles
No person may chase, drive, harass, kill, or attempt to kill any game animal or game bird with or from a snowmobile, except that coyotes may be taken by a landowner or lessee on the landowner's property by shooting from stationary snowmobiles through the use of firearms if the operator of the snowmobile is at least 18 years of age. Not more than one person may be aboard the snowmobile while coyotes are being hunted or taken.
Snowmobilers must provide evidence of financial responsibility (liability insurance) if requested by a law enforcement officer, as a secondary action when the driver is detained for another offense.
State Parks that have Wildlife Watching
- Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve
- Lake Cochrane Recreation Area
- Lake Herman State Park
- Little Moreau Recreation Area
- Oahe Downstream Recreation Area
- Outdoor Campus - Rapid City
- Outdoor Campus - Sioux Falls
- Pelican Lake Recreation Area
- Pickerel Lake Recreation Area
- Shadehill Recreation Area
- Walker's Point Recreation Area