Motorists Encouraged to Watch for Bighorn Sheep in the Black Hills, South Dakota

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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 we’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.


Retired2hunt's picture

  These are definitely


These are definitely majestic animals and are a great site to see.  However, they are also found unfortunately very near roadways - sometimes due to the salt used for snow melt and also because of the browsing ability just off of the road.  I definitely agree here with Vermonster that 450 animals is not a large population and the loss of any ram or ewe is a dramatic loss overall.  This is also not a small animal so the risk of injury to a motorist in an accident with one could be tragic.  I would hope other than this communication that the state or SD is also using other means to warn motorist of these great animals being in the area.  Here is Colorado the state uses large illuminated signs that warn of wildlife within the area.  It is great that people have the ability to observe these bighorn in this area of SD and  hopefully there are many warnings to ensure both the people and the animals are kept safe.





Ca_Vermonster's picture

Yeah, definately want to

Yeah, definately want to watch out for those critters.  It would be very unfortunate to see many bighorns getting killed up there in South Dakota, of worse, have anyone lose their life in an accident involving them.  450 animals is not that big of a population, and if a few animals are taken out of the herd, it could have very adverse affects.

I remember driving I-70 out of Denver years ago, and seeing a coule of herd of Bighorn Sheep right along the road.  Must have been 30 of them in each group. They were not sparring at that time, and were actually down there licking the salt at the edge of the road with the spring thaw.  Another step or 2 and there would have been a couple of them riding on my bumper.

hunter25's picture

Of all the ways for a bighorn

Of all the ways for a bighorn to die thia has to be one of the worst and  least expected. We don't think of htem being down in the roads much instead of up on th eslopes and peaks but it happens more than you would think. I saw a ewe hit by a car a few years back right in front of me while driving home from Denver to Glenwood right on the interstate in th emiddle of the day. You have to pay attention for wildlife no matter when or where you are driving.