Tootsie the Coyote: South Dakota’s Accidental Mascot

GALLENA, SD — South Dakota’s state animal was declared to be the coyote in 1949. Unlike most state animals, it wasn’t because of the species, but because of an individual creature: Tootsie the coyote.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Jacobsen/Jeraldine Farhni

An Ollie Wiswell came across an abandoned coyote pup near Custer State Park in 1947. There was a statewide bounty on coyotes at the time, but Wiswell instead took the pup with him and gave it as a gift to his friends Fred and Esther Borsch.

They named her Tootsie and raised her where they lived in Galena, a small town in the Black Hills that was a silver mining town at the time.

She was vocal, friendly, attractive, and talented, and she quickly gained popularity across the state.

WATCH: 1950s Tootsie Color Video

Tootsie featured at parades, special events, and even on a record album, singing with Fred Bosch on the tune.

It wasn’t long before it became a statewide sensation, and in 1949 Governor George T. Mickelson declared the Tootsie the official state animal in 1949, just two years after its discovery.

Tootsie owned by owner Jeff – Photo courtesy of Jeff Jacobsen/Jeraldine Farhni

But it didn’t stop there, Fred and Tootsie also went on a 10-day nationwide tour that reached the White House.

Tootsie finally died in 1959, but Fred Borsch never forgot her. When Borsch died in 1981, the song “Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye” was played at his funeral, as specified in his will.

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