Motorists Encouraged to Watch for Bighorn Sheep in the Black Hills, South Dakota
It's rare to see impressive big-game animals exhibiting annual rights-of-passage and aggressive instincts, but motorists near Cleghorn Springs Fish Hatchery and in the Hill City area are being asked to slow down for sparring bighorn sheep.
"Many of our bighorn sheep come down from higher elevations this time of year to breed, and sheep in the Hill City area can be along roads year-round" said John Kanta, Game Fish and Parks Department regional wildlife manager for western South Dakota. "Unfortunately, many of the animals congregate on or near roads. We have already lost one ram to a vehicle, and weâ€™re reminding motorists to slow down when traveling near the hatchery and in the Hill City area."
Bighorn sheep tend to gather on a stretch of Highway 44, west from Cleghorn Canyon to the top of the hill, and on Highway 385 from Sheridan Lake to Hill City. Motorists are encouraged to travel slower than posted speed limits. Drivers in those areas also should be aware of stopped vehicles and pedestrians viewing the animals.
"Seeing bighorn rams sparring in the wild is an amazing sight," Kanta said. "Many people come to take photos or just watch. We get a lot of traffic through the area, and we would hate to have an injury to someone or one of these beautiful animals."
Bighorn sheep are native to western South Dakota, but they were wiped out in the state by unregulated hunting and disease in the early 1900s. Bighorns were re-introduced in the 1920s, there currently are about 450 of the animals in the Black Hills and Badlands National Park.