They’re Hungry When it Turns Cold
Yeah, I’d much rather explore the Badlands when it’s warm and comfortable. But the wildlife in the north unit don’t have much choice. And that turns out good for us. Autumn is a good time to visit the park. We get to see them better than other times of the year. Cold pre-winter weather means the animals are busy grazing, and eating. Just like a rancher’s cattle, wildlife need food to stay warm and healthy in winter. As we found out, wildlife in the north unit are easy to spot.
So, that’s why they graze where food supplies like grass are easy to find — right next to the road and in the grasslands.
Thanks to abundant grasses, the near-extinct bison has been brought back to be seen in the national park. That story is fascinating. Find it here.
Last week we drove through Theodore Roosevelt National Park and we got several chances to see wildlife in the north unit grazing along the road.
It was late in the day. The sun disappeared behind a thick cover of clouds, so there wasn’t much color in the landscape.
Still, we got to see bison, deer, longhorns and big horn sheep along the scenic drive. We spotted most of them on the far west end of the scenic drive near Oxbow Overlook.
Several small groups of bison were roadside, peacefully feeding and ignoring our drive by. We noticed they’re putting on their winter coat, getting more shaggy.
The lower Little Missouri River is perfect for hundreds of big horn sheep. Typically, they’re deep into back country, and out of sight. However, around the Long X Bridge, the CCC Campground and the north unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, hundreds of sheep can be seen. And that’s what gave us one of our favorite photo moments, last week.
Up on top of the prairie, on the west end of the park, we saw what we thought were mule deer.
Instead it was more than 20 big horn sheep grazing in the grass.
And since this is the start of mating season, we watched four rams chasing the girls. (We’re editing a video of the chase and we’ll put that up on Monday. Stay tuned.)
This spring’s lamb crop didn’t pay any attention. They just kept eating.
It’s easy to think that now that it’s cold and wintery there’s no reason to visit the Badlands.
Our visit last week proved there is no bad time. Now that it’s mating season for the sheep, you may get to see some of the action we saw last week. We’ll show you more in a couple days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Theodore Roosevelt National Park open?
Yes, the park is open year round, though if the snow is deep some of the scenic drive may be closed. However, even then, the park is open for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. And it’s always a good time to see wildlife in the north unit.
Where do we eat when we are in the Badlands?
If you visit the southern parts of the Badlands, you’ll find several excellent restaurants from Dickinson to Beach.
If you visit the northern sections, Watford City has dozens of places to eat, from authentic Mexican restaurants to breweries and pizzerias.
What are the best roads to get to the Badlands.
Interstate 94 cuts across the southern part. Highway 22 leads to the rugged northern section, and Highway 85 follows the eastern edge of the Badlands and National Grasslands.