Stalking Bighorn Sheep in Badlands National Park

If you’ve been following the blog regularly (and I know you have!), you’re aware of my insane obsession with bighorn sheep. It probably started because I failed to see any when I searched for wildlife in Yellowstone. And even though I saw a few at the Georgetown Bighorn Sheep Viewing Area, they were far away and only visible through binoculars.

badlands sign

So the Badlands of South Dakota offered a chance for redemption, and I embraced the opportunity. A stop at the visitor center taught me that there is a certain bend on the road where sheep often gather in a forest ravine below. I went straight there and was rewarded with the sight of about a dozen sheep, from very close range. Score!

badlands bighorn sheep

This is an unusual sight, because normally when you view bighorn sheep, you have to look up on the sides of mountains. It’s rare that you’re looking down on them. They were mostly just feeding on plants and looking up at all the strange humans staring at them. The sheep came and went; the most I saw together at a time was four. There were some cute babies too!

bighorn sheep

Non-sheep sights in the Badlands

For the non-sheep-obsessed, the Badlands offer plenty of other sights. In terms of wildlife, you have to love the prairie dogs. These adorable creatures run around in the grass, until someone gets close, and then they all run underground in their holes, except for one “lookout” prairie dog, who stands guard and shrieks loudly to warn the others of impending danger.

badlands prairie dog

Yes, that’s a pile of bison dung next to the poor prairie dog’s hole. How unfortunate for that little guy! Don’t you hate when you think you have a prime piece of real estate, and then some other species leaves behind excrement the size of your own body?

If you happen to be hiking through prairie dog territory, the animals will shriek at you all the time. Even if you think, “Don’t hide little guys, I won’t hurt you!,” they will view you as a threat. The lookout stands watch until you approach within about 10 feet, and then he or she finally heads underground.

Non-wildlife sights in the Badlands

One of the most impressive things about the Badlands are the seemingly-neverending hills of rock. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else. I can only imagine what the early explorers who stumbled on this place would have thought.

badlands rocks

I camped for a night in the Badlands and did some hiking the next morning, walking through prairie dog villages and stepping around fresh bison dung all over the place.

badlands hike

The bison wander around wherever they feel like, although they’re not as numerous here as they are in Custer State Park – stay tuned for that story a couple of Mondays from now.

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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

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