Bighorn sheep

A herd of bighorn sheep makes its home in and around Silver City.  In 2005 the
herd numbered 30 animals and in 2006 there were around 15 animals at any
one time living here.  Bighorn sheep are native to South Dakota and according
to GF&P there are around 150 in the entire Black Hills.
Ewes - July 2009
July 9, 2008 - Rams
Non-dominant ram - January 2008. He has decided to hang around for the winter.
I spy three sheep on the hillside - August 2009
Ewe and lamb - August 2009
Curious lamb - 2009
2009 herd with lambs
2008 Picture taken in July - courtesy John P. Gomez
The population has been dwindling in recent years because of contagious pneumonia.  The disease is especially hard on newborn lambs who
frequently succumb to it.  Every spring as the ewes migrate to Silver City we have high hopes of a productive lambing season.  We are
frequently disappointed as the young lambs die or are taken by predators.

In the fall, the herd heads to the foothills near Rapid City (fish hatchery on hwy 44).  There, the males  have head butting contests to
establish dominance. They run at each other  at speeds of up to 20 miles an hour and ram their heads together. Rams usually only fight
with rams who have horns that are about the same size as their horn. Head butting contests can last as long as 20 hours! The dominant
ram will mate with more females than the other rams. When a male is ready to mate, he will go into a herd of females. The female will
chase the male before they mate. Sometimes a male will kick a female to get her to chase him.

Recent sightings

June 30, 2015 - Six  lambs in Silver City! They look healthy and curious.  An additional
10 sheep (3 tagged, five ewes, one ram, and one yearling ewe).


June 24, 2015 - Four ewes (#134, #205, #148 plus one) and one ram plus
seen about.

April 16, 2015 -  Ewe #134 was observed in Rapid City.  
This ewe will make the trek to Silver City soon.

July 7, 2014 - A lamb is put down by GF&P after being rejected by its mother.  
It suffered from severe pneumonia..

July 6, 2014 - Eight ewes, a young ram, and a healthy lamb are observed in Silver City.

June 24, 2014 - Three ewes (#134, #205) plus one lamb

March 31, 2014 - One ewe on cliff above meadow. On her way to lambing site.   
First sighting of the year.

September 6, 2013 - One ewe #205 in the meadow (coughing slightly) with its lamb.  Last sighting of the year.

August 14, 2013 - Three ewes (#205 plus two unmarked) and one lamb

June 11, 2013 - Three ewes on the meadow (#148 plus two unmarked).  Up on the cliff and waiting are three lambs!

May 25, 2013 - Five ewes observed by the cave.  One unmarked ewe on the meadow

July 10, 2012 - Seven ewes (#203, #205, #148 , and four unmarked)

July 3,2012 - Two ewes and two lambs on the meadow (no collars)

June 15, 2012 - Three ewes (one collared) and two sub-adults by the cave

June 9, 2012 - Three ewes (#205 and two uncollared) a sub-adult ewe, and two lambs are now feeding at the meadow.

June 4. 2012 - A newborn lamb is taken by a lion near the birthing sites by the cave.  

May 2012 -
Three confirmed lambs born.  First on May 8 and not tagged. Two of them born on May 20 and 21  (123 and ?)  were tagged
within 24 hours of birth by GF&P.  This brings the total of individual animals seen to between 9 and 11. (five ewes, two sub-adults, three
lambs)

April 7, 2012 - First sighting of the year.  Single ewe (collared #204) spotted near the road up from School House before the big turn.

January 20, 2012 - Ewe #134 who comes every year to Silver City was sighted by Cleghorn.  Doing well.

September 30, 2011 - Last sighting of the year.  After thinking they had left, we still see on a daily basis two ewes and two lambs happily
grazing on a cool sunny afternoon.

August 20, 2011 - Summary report.   At least five lambs were born.  One died, four survived.  The sheep spent most of the summer
upstream from Silver City.

July 31, 2011 - A lamb is found abandoned just east of Silver City.  The lamb exhibits sore mouth disease but is otherwise active. Being that
it is later in the season, it is already eating grass.  His chances of survival are low.   

July 29, 2011 - Four ewes (two collared #134)  and two lambs are seen in Silver City after spending most of the summer upstream by the
cave.  One of the lambs has a collar.

June 23, 2011 - Multiple ewes and four lambs are observed by the cave. We hope that the lambs are able to make it through the summer.

May 1, 2011 - First sighting of the year.  A young ewe (maybe 2) descends onto the meadow.  She is very curious.  Looks around, walks all
over the place.  There is no hesitancy with this one.

November 19, 2010 - Lone ram seen on the hillside

August 17, 2010 - Last sighting of the summer.  Three mature ewes on the meadow.

August 12, 2010 - A very small lamb is found dead on Gorman Gulch.
Cause of death unknown.

July 25, 2010 - Ten ewes and two lambs. The lambs look healthy
and happy

June 29. 2010 - Three ewes.   One with large antenna (#134)

June 22, 2010 - Six ewes in Silver City and two more up in the cliffs
around the cave 1.2 miles upstream from town.

June 21, 2010 - Five ewes in Silver City.  Two collared.  One had a
collar, a 15" antenna and a #148.  You would think that the large
antenna would get tangled on branches.  No lambs yet.

May 14, 2010 - First sighting of the year.  Two ewes descend onto
the meadow.  One is collared.  They stay for a couple of hours and
then climb up the hill in mid-afternoon.

October 25, 2009 - A lone ram descends to the meadow.  Hangs around for a week and then leaves.

August 21, 2009 - A pair (ewe & lamb) spend morning in the meadow. The main group has migrated away a few days before.

August 14, 2009 - Lo and behold! There are six lambs in the meadow this morning.  Have the momma's been keeping the little ones
secret?  What a pleasant surprise.

August 13, 2009 -  The bighorn sheep have been moving a little more this year than in previous years.  While groups as large as 13 have
been spotted this summer, the sheep tend to come to Silver City in smaller groups.  While most of the summer we have been spotting two
lambs, today we got to see a group of eight ewes with three lambs feeding in the meadow.  One of the lambs is much smaller than the
other two and probably younger having been born later in the season.  

July 15, 2009 - A ram comes and goes.  Feeds in the meadow for a short while and then heads up the cliff.  He is a large ram with a 3/4 curl.

June 26, 2009 - Twelve ewes and one lamb are spotted on the meadow.  They have also been seen further upstream by the cave.  The
ewes are still shedding their winter coats. One of the ewes is collared however it has both horns and therefore it is not the same collared
sheep that was sighted a few weeks ago.

May 29, 2009 - For many weeks we have been wondering why the sheep have not been seen this spring.  For the last few years, the sheep
arrive in the Silver City area towards the latter part of April.  Well today,  we see three ewes with a baby lamb.  One of the ewes is collared
(also sports a single horn).   The winter was long and we had many storms.   This is likely the reason why the sheep hung around Cleghorn
longer this year.  We hope to see more in the days to come.

October 24, 2008 - Two wandering rams sighted
August 16, 2008 - Last sighting of the sheep around Silver city
August 4, 2008 - Twelve ewes but no lambs.

July 10, 2008 - A lamb falls off the cliff and badly injures its left rear leg.  The incident occurred just west of the cave past the first wooden
bridge.  GF&P was called to the scene after the lamb was seen struggling to move.  The GF&P officer arrived and determined that it was
better to leave the lamb there rather than take it in for rehabilitation.  The lamb slowly limped up the cliff where its mother was waiting.  
The reason for the fall was that the group was on the move.  An hour later 9 ewes, 1 lamb, and 3 rams were feeding in Silver City by the
pond.  With the straggling ewe and lamb there would be a total of 15 sheep.

July 9, 2008 - Three rams have frequented Silver City in the last few days.  It is uncommon to see rams around this area in the summer.   
For the past two months there have been seven ewes around town mostly up the creek  past the second wooden bridge.  They are not
coming to feed in the meadow as often as in previous years.  The likely reason is that there is abundant grass even in the high cliffs. The
lambs have not been seen for a few weeks.  We hope that they are doing well and look forward to seeing them again soon.

June 1, 2008 - Six ewes seen walking the north cliff. At least one
lamb accompanying them.  Could not determine if there were any
other lambs.  One of the ewes had a radio collar.

April 17, 2008 - Two ewes appear on the meadow along with
the ram. (10 days earlier than last year)  They appear nervous,
looking around and getting used to their summer habitat.  
Both ewes appear to be pregnant.

April 8, 2008 - The lone ram has been seen sporadically
thoughout the winter.  In the last week he has been coming
down to the meadow more frequently.  He is anticipating
the arrival of the herd.

October 25, 2007 - Behold, a lone ram descends into the
pasture.  It may be the same one that wintered here last year.  
However, he is now bigger and healthier.  He has a 3/4 curl.
Sighted again off and on in early November around the school house.

September  2007 -  One ewe is still hanging around the area despite
a few frosts and obvious signs of fall.  

September 4, 2007 -  Last sighting of the entire herd in Silver City.  A total of thirteen came down on a daily basis.  Only one newborn was
present by the end of the season.  It is unclear what happened to the other two.  They probably died from predators.  The coughing among
the herd was mostly non existent this season.

June 2007 -  Three newborns tentatively negotiating the cliffs.  Very rarely do they come down with the adults.  The group is now at 17.

May 25, 2007 - Six ewes are now feeding in the meadow.  They come down in the early morning and late afternoon to feed for a couple of
hours.  At least two appear to be pregnant.

April 27, 2007 - Around mid-morning a ewe has tentatively come down the cliffs onto the meadow.  The ram couldn't contain himself and
quickly approaches her. After a long winter by himself he seems happy to see another bighorn.  The ewe is nervous, she stays near the cliffs
and is easily spooked by the marmots and flying birds.
April 2007 - John Kanta (GF&P) indicates that the herd around the fish hatchery is healthy even though some animals were lost to
pneumonia.  The Rapid Creek basin herd is estimated at 100 animals including the herd from Thunderhead Falls and Silver City.  He
indicated that in the Winter of 2008 some animals may be moved to the Southern Hills.

March 2007 - A male (4-6 year old) spend the whole winter around Silver City.  By end of March, he has been coming down to the meadows
more often to feed on the new grasses and perhaps anticipating the arrival of the rest of the herd.

September 2006 - A lamb (yearling) is found dead on the cliffs on the south side of Silver City.  GF&P is called to retrieve the animal.  John
Kanta later confirms that the cause of death was pneumonia.  This is not surprising since for two years we have been hearing hacking
coughs coming form the herd.

Picture Gallery:
Bighorn sheep in Silver City meadow
Lamb - July 2010
July 31,2011 Abandoned sheep with sore mouth disease. Observed on interesction to lower Jenny Gulch.
July 29, 2011 - Two lambs. One collared. Five altogether for lambing season. One dies of sore mouth disease.
August 16, 2011 Getting ready to leave Silver City. Four lambs observed
Ewe and two sub-adults (05/16/2012)
July 2012 - Seven sheep come early mornings and early evenings.
June 11, 2013 Three lambs
Bighorn Sheep
June 30, 2015. Six lambs looking healthy