Badlands National Park – Bighorn Sheep

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This is the last in my series sharing the Badlands National Park from our recent visit, with this gallery of photos of bighorn sheep, specifically female (ewes) and lambs.  (Get ready for super-cuteness a little further down!)

We did see a herd of males (rams) at a great distance; but by the time we reached the area on the scenic drive loop, they were gone.

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Bighorn sheep (four ewes, two lambs)

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There were about 2 million bighorn sheep before their decline due to European expansion into the American West, causing bighorn populations to plummet to just 20,000 by 1940.

Conservationists stepped in to defend and protect the species.

In 1964, the Badlands received 22 bighorn sheep translocated from Pike’s Peak in Colorado.  The park later received a second population in 2004 from Wheeler Peak in New Mexico.  The Badlands National Park now serves as home to about 250 bighorn out of the 80,000 which exist in the United States today.

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Bighorn sheep feeding

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Bighorn sheep are grazers, eating grasses and shrubs.

After descending to grasslands to quickly eat large amounts of vegetation, bighorn sheep will then retreat to cliffs away from predators.

Once safe on the cliffs, bighorn sheep regurgitate their food and chew it as cud before digesting it fully.

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Bighorn ewe feeding

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Badlands NP have fitted many bighorn sheep with numbers and GPS collars so that park rangers can monitor their positions.

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Bighorn ewe #50 fitted with a GPS collar

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Bighorn ewe fitted with GPS collar (# tag on other side)

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Bighorn ewes give birth during the spring, and hide their lambs on narrow, rocky ledges at higher elevations in order to protect them from almost all predators.

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Bighorn ewes and lambs

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After breeding, the ewes and lambs live together in large herds.  Lambs nurse until they’re about six months old.

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Young lamb nursing

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If the lamb is female, it will stay with its mother’s herd throughout its life.

However, if the lamb is male, it will leave its mother’s herd at about 2-4 years old and seek out to live with a bachelor group led by a dominant ram.

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Momma with her little lambs

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When we came upon the location where most of these photos were taken, there was a pair of lambs exploring the cliffs.  I think my heart skipped a beat quite a few times!

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Two lambs exploring their home of cliffs

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“Follow me!”

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Lamb climbing up side of cliff with ease

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“Hey, let’s go down there!”

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The little lambs really did look like they were having fun.  I could have watched them and this herd for hours.

A few more of my favorites….

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Bighorn ewe keeping watch

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Young bighorn down below with others

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Bighorn ewe close-up

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Bighorn ewe high up above the herd, keeping watch

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Little lamb sweetness

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If you missed any of the series, here are direct links:
Badlands National Park – Landscapes
Badlands National Park – Birds
Badlands National Park – American Bison Part 1
Badlands National Park – American Bison Part 2
Badlands National Park – Prairie Dogs
Badlands National Park – Pronghorn

I highly recommend the Badlands NP in the spring time with all the young wildlife activity and plant growth taking place.  And, if you love to bump along dusty unpaved roads, I can only imagine the additional wildlife to be seen.

We relocated over a week ago to the west side of South Dakota, now camping near the Black Hills National Forest.  There’s lots to see and do in this area, and we’re here until the end of June.  Plenty of time to explore…..and chill!

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49 thoughts on “Badlands National Park – Bighorn Sheep

  1. A fitting conclusion to the excellent series of articles on the Badlands National Park. I think the Bighorn sheep are my favourites. The photos are enthralling, especially the little lambs, so sweet. Thank you, Donna, for all your hard work. Looking forward to hearing about the Black Hills National Forest.

    • Thank you very much! Spring in the Badlands is truly inspiring with all the new life in plants and wildlife. I am thrilled we made that short stop along the way to see this national park. 😊

  2. Oh, those lambs are so cute! I am happy to hear of the sheep being replenished, sounds like it has been pretty successful, though I sympathize with them having to wear collars and tags, even if it is for their own good. They have good protection in those hills, it took me a while to spot the pair of lambs in one shot. What a delightful journey for you!

    • Aren’t they!! 😊 Thank you Jane! I felt, too, for the collar nuisance, but I know it’s for a good thing. If I didn’t have my telephoto lens, I wouldn’t have spotted them out on the cliffs, they blend in so well. Amazing animals!

    • It was more than I could imagine! I think Spring is a great time to go, by mid-summer, the heat is scorching. Do try! I’ve been to several of the Utah, Wyoming and Colorado NPs, this one is just as nice and different.

  3. Wonderful captures! Perfect lighting, great backgrounds and avid photographer! These words describe the whole action. Animals are so beautiful… 🙂

  4. Fantastic photos Donna, I especially adore that last one of the little lamb! I’ve now put the Badlands on my bucket list. 😁

  5. You’ve documented a fabulous adventure, I’m happy to be along for the ride. And oh my goodness, Donna, I could feel your heart missing a few beats! Just amazing agility and footing, especially the young ones on those hills. Mamma with her Little Lambs is my favorite, such a candid look at them going about their business. Of course Lamb Cuteness is very sweet, so cuddly looking!

    • Thank you, Ellen, so happy you enjoyed it! Such a difference to the marshes we love so much. Watching those lambs being playful went on for quite a while. It was like they were showing off, and there were a lot of people at this viewpoint watching (obviously!). How they grip so easily with those hooves is truly amazing. I thought you’d like these little ones, lambs are adorable no matter whether they’re corralled or wild!!

  6. Awww! They’re so cute!!

    They’re amazing to see. I’ve only seen them in Montana and I stood in awe and wonder watching them climb the rocky mountains.
    Your images are wonderful, and I can see why you’d want to stay for hours observing and documenting what you saw with your camera. I would too!

    • Oh those lambs are so adorably entertaining, I really enjoyed them. Black Hills NF has tons of cool places to visit and scenic drives to cruise. We’re checking off my list!

  7. Wonderful shots Donna! I was in the Badlands 2 years ago and got to photograph them but not nearly as thoroughly as you have done. Lots of winners here!. BTW — we have Bighorn Sheep around here too. 🙂

    • Thank you, Denise! They were a thrill to see and my first time seeing them as well. To see the little lambs was a super bonus! Awesome that you have them near you, it’d be cool to be able to see the males during rut season. 🙂

  8. I have to get caught up with your travels. This is absolutely amazing! I have seen Bighorn Sheep in my life but it’s been quite a while. Long before I had a camera. Thanks so much for these wonderful images and narrative!!

  9. Pingback: Black Hills Bighorn Sheep Rams | Photos by Donna

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