LOCATION: Badlands/Black Hills, South Dakota
Last week I finally made it to state #47, South Dakota. In the middle of a road trip to Wyoming, I stopped by Badlands National Park and the Black Hills. I was most excited by the possibility of seeing bighorn sheep, since I had never seen any with my own eyes (just through a telescope).
Usually when you look for bighorn sheep, you look way up to ledges atop mountains, but there’s a certain peak in the Black Hills that is known for bighorn sheep where you can actually park and look down into a valley. Sure enough, when we walked over, we spotted a lone bighorn sheep feeding. She looked up at us but didn’t seem too bothered by our presence.
Minutes later, another sheep came along with a baby. We watched the three of them for probably 20 minutes. They were much closer than I ever thought I’d get.
As we were leaving, we walked around the ridge and spotted another five bighorn sheep, including a few babies. The babies were tiny and looked like lamb. I didn’t see any male bighorn sheep, the ones with the big spiral horns. So that gives me something to look forward to next time.
The Black Hills also provided opportunities to see other wildlife like buffalo and pronghorns, which I’d already seen plenty of before.
There was one new critter to add to my list: Prairie dogs! They were everywhere in the Badlands, noticeable by their communities of holes in the ground. Whenever people got close, they would all run underground, except for the one assigned to be lookout, who would stay atop his hole and shriek to warn everybody that danger was near.
My visit to the Badlands left North Dakota as the only state of the lower 48 that I’d never visited… but stay tuned for more reports from the rest of my trip. (Spoiler: I made it to North Dakota too!)