Badlands Bighorn Sheep by Diane Kay Photography
An avid photographer of the western regions of North Dakota, and especially the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Diane Defoe of Diane Kay Photography in Watford City, North Dakota seems to commune well with these magnificent mammals, the rarest of the big game animals of North Dakota. Enjoy her photos of the Bighorn Sheep of North Dakota. Check out her Facebook page, Diane Kay Photography. You’ll find Diane’s photographs for sale at the Long X Trading Post Visitor Center in Watford City, North Dakota.
Bighorn Sheep in the Badlands of North Dakota
The most difficult mammals to observe in the wilds of western North Dakota are bighorn sheep. According to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department they are the most rare of the big game species in the state. They number about 330 statewide as of 2019, in keeping with the latest averages according to a recent article in the Grand Forks Herald. They were first recorded for science in North Dakota by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805 along the Yellowstone River.
Horns of the Rams
Horns or antlers? Clarification from the Smithsonian Institute indicates that horn consist of bone encased in the protein keratin, which is also found in human fingernails. Horns are generally permanent, and won’t regrow if they’re damaged or removed. By contrast, antlers consist of bone covered by living skin known as “velvet,” which supplies blood as the bone grows. Antlers will regrow after they fall off, which they do seasonally. You can see horns on many kinds of animals, and on males and females alike, but antlers grow on species in the deer family, and typically on males.
The ram’s horns can weigh up to 35 pounds. The National Wildlife Federation reports that older rams may have massive horns that can grow over three feet long with a more than one-foot circumference at the base. Females, or ewes, also have horns, but they are short with only a slight curvature.
Both rams and ewes use their horns as tools for eating and fighting. During the rut in November and December, rams have been known to compete against one another for up to 20 hours. They literally run against each other head on, their horns clashing. Sometimes the sound of this fierce competition can be heard over a mile away!
Rams Can Be Big!
The National Big Horn Sheep Center reports that a large ram can weigh over 300 pounds, and stand more than 42 inches at the shoulder. In North Dakota, the average weight for a ram is about 230 pounds. Females weigh between 75 and 200 pounds, according to Nature Works.
Bighorns Like It Rough!
Bighorn sheep are found only in the rough and steep badlands terrain along the Little Missouri River. They browse on grasses, clover and sedges nearby open grasslands in warm months, and on woody plants like willow, sage and rabbit brush in cold months.
The Other Large Badlands Mammal…..
One other large mammal found in western North Dakota holds even more people in captivation than the elusive bighorn sheep. Bison! The American Bison is a symbol of the strength, tenacity, and magnificence of the West! At one point they were nearly extinct! Read more about these fascinating animals which reside in both the North and South Units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park here: How Bison Made It Back to the Park!
Find out about Waking Up in a Buffalo Herd! (on our wedding morning!) by reading this: Mild Mannered Explorers Wake Up in a Buffalo Herd!
Check out some of the action, and discover the beauty of the badlands areas here: Hysterical! Bison Rubs His….On That Fence!
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