Last fall we traveled from Washington state to visit our younger son and his wife, currently living in Evanston, Illinois (where he is doing a post-doc fellowship at Northwestern University). We decided to go in mid-October, thinking we'd see some fall colors yet avoid ice and snow. We did see some nice fall colors, but we were caught in some uncommonly early snow and ice storms across most of the prairies.
As part of the trip we'd hoped to visit beautiful Badlands National Park, one of the best places to spot pronghorn antelope. As we headed south from I-90, the weather and visibility were getting steadily worse, to the point where we could see less than a half mile. We decided to turn around and return to the freeway continuing our journey east. At the point we were about to turn we came across this bachelor group of bighorn sheep jay-walking across the highway.
They were a feisty bunch, frequently rearing up on their hind legs, ramming their heads together, pushing, and engaging in dominance behavior in what would soon be serious rut rivalries. The hazy low light, snow and their movements made it difficult to capture perfect images, but this is some of what we saw:
Bighorn sheep once lived across most of North America, but hunting and loss of territory greatly reduced their numbers, and they were all but extinct in the South Dakota Badlands. US Senator and conservationist, Peter Norbeck, relocated twenty-two bighorn from Colorado to the Badlands. The park now is home to about 250 bighorn.
The bighorn rams stopped the fighting after a while and focused on some serious grazing.
We headed to Wall Drug, whose signs are ubiquitous in South Dakota.