Wildlife Discovery

The expedition made significant discoveries for the recorded animal kingdom. Watch for these animals on 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 appear to run with more ease and to bound with greater agility than any animal I ever saw." Today, we know that these graceful creatures routinely reach speeds of 60 mph.

Barking squirrels

The 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 bushy 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.


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