Bighorn Sheep, Pinnacles

Bighorn at PinnaclesBighorn at Pinnacles

The elusive Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep was introduced to the Badlands in 1964. The flock remains fairly small — I’ve spent two weeks in the park now, and yesterday was my first sighting. Even after I spotted them, they were hard to see, and several cars drove by me without noticing why I’d stopped. I’d guess this is typical. The bighorns hang out on grass at the rim of precipitous cliffs and buttes, so they have an “escape route” ready at all times. Almost all of the female individuals I encountered yesterday had been collared. I suppose they suffer predation from coyotes (while I watched a group of Bighorn grazing earlier, the loud yip-yip-yip singing of coyotes in the ridges below sounded like a full orchestra of warbling clarinets and trilling flutes!). I’ve also heard that the “winter tick” which can be so devastating to moose has begun to show up here in the park, and that apparently has been killing mule deer. I hope it will not take a liking to sheep.

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