National Park Wildlife

The wild horses of the Badlands are a feature attraction of the South Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora. They’re wary animals and will not let you get close — unless they want to. It’s their choice, not yours.  They chose to stop by me to check me out one sunny afternoon this summer.

If you’ve been out to the Badlands this summer, you know it’s green and not the normal summer brown.  That makes it very attractive to photograph the wildlife at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  People seem to be quite excited when they get a chance to see the bison. 

It was a brief stop since we were on our way further west — but the stop paid off.  (We encourage you to make a planned or unplanned stop as soon as possible. You could be rewarded with some extraordinary opportunities.)

Bison are very active now. (We’ll explain why and show you photos and videos in a coming story.) We had a good visit with them in the North Unit, so we stopped by the South Unit to see what they were up to. As you can read here, they once roamed widely in the prairies and hills of America.   

bison dust Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit

Bison at the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park wallow in the dust on a summer evening.

Horse time with three wild horse bachelors

We thought we might see more bison at the South Unit. So a few days later, we went looking for them.  No luck. Instead, we got some up close and personal time with the wild horses of the Badlands, Connecticut, Nicols, and Roosevelt. (Thanks, Heather White for identifying them for us!)

wild horses badlands theodore roosevelt national park

The trio of what some call “bachelor buddies” watched us from a hillside.  Roosevelt, Connecticut, and Nicols.

We first spotted the trio of stallions grazing on a not-too-distant hillside. Several groups of people gathering behind the wild horses to get photographs; the three seemed to be moving away from the crowd. That’s why I thought they might move up the next hillside. So I went back around to the other side of that hill and hustled to the top in hopes of catching them as they came up over the top. 

Once I got to the top, I was out of the range of their scent, and their sight.  That gave me a chance to photograph them down below.wild horses badlands theodore roosevelt national park

Here they come

After a bit, the crowd of tourists got bored left to go visit the prairie dog town down the road.  Once the crowd was gone, the trio of wild horses did a U-turn and came back around to my side of the hill. That’s where we met.

wild horse badlands

Nicols comes up the path toward me.

The first one, watched me as it came up the hill and stopped about 10 feet from me, just looking.  I didn’t know what he was going to do.  Was he going to close the gap? Would he turn and run?

wild horse badlands theodore roosevelt national park

Being the polite fellow I am, I stepped off the trail and let him pass. Once he got past me, he turned to look at his companion as if to say, “C’mon fellas.  What are you waiting for?” 

wild horses badlands theodore roosevelt national park

wild horses badlands theodore roosevelt national park

Roosevelt comes toward me, ears fully perked. We spend a few moments like that, then off he goes.

They wasted no time and charged up the hill, skirting around me, and on up over the top of the hill.  That was fun!

badlands wild horses theodore roosevelt national park

Roosevelt was not in a big hurry to get around me.

wild horses badlands theodore roosevelt national park.

Connecticut blasts off past me.


A few years ago, Circus came up to me while I sat near the Pleasant Valley Ranch.

circus medicine hat horse wild horse of the badlands theodore roosevelt national park

Circus’ markings indicate he could be a “medicine hat horse.”



Other resources

From down below, this video was shot to give a good idea of the moment.  Watch how it happened.



YouTube player


Most of the time, the wild horses of the Badlands stay a distance away, and any good photographs are only by a telephoto lens.  Deb Lee Carson, however, has done an incredible job of documenting the wild horses here in the Badlands of North Dakota and elsewhere.  Her dedication to Blaze is a tremendous tribute.

Badlands wild horses, bison, and even longhorn steers are exciting bonuses for people who love to see the landscape and beauty of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. 

We assembled a collection of photos of these three wild horses of the Badlands you can find here at  What has been your experience with the wild horses of the Badlands?  We’d love to share, so if you have a link to one of your experiences, we’ll add it!  

Share this article with other horse lovers by clicking one of the “share” buttons.

Coming up

Just in time for the Labor Day weekend — road trip ideas. We’ll show you the most scenic highway in the state that runs through the Badlands.  Read this to get other ideas of quiet escapes in Western North Dakota.

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