Badlands National Park Animals

Badlands National Park Animals
Visitors to Badlands National Park in South Dakota may expect to see a vast series of geological wonders, spiraling and rolling through the landscape. Surrounding each geological wonder is sprawling grassland. Tall and short grasses are the staple food sources of many of the park's wildlife. Mammals, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians all thrive in the prairies and canyons within the parks borders.

Bison

The poster animal for the Great Plains, the American bison grazes on short grasses and low-lying shrubs throughout the year. Hanging its head low to the ground, it even grazes during the harsh winter months, brushing its head side to side to move snow and uncover the grasses below. With the exception of non-dominant bulls, which roam alone for much of their lives, bison travel in herds, moving from prairie to prairie in search of fresh grasses. The normal mating season for the herd is between June and September, with the majority of activity occurring in the middle of summer. During this time, the herds are most active and unpredictable. Bison can reach speeds of up to 35 mph and are more aggressive in the mating season. Visitors should be cautious when observing them during this time.

Bald Eagle

Well known as the symbol of the United States of America, the bald eagle can be spotted year round in Badlands National Park. This raptor can have a wingspan of as much as 8 feet and is known by its trademark brown body and white head and tail. To catch a glimpse of this bird, look near bodies of water where the eagle is known to scavenge on dead fish. It will also sometimes kill live prey or steal meals from other birds such as osprey. Bald eagles commonly nest in groups approximately 180 feet from the nearest body of water. Nests are built between 10 and 15 feet high. If observing in the winter, it is important not to disturb the bird, as energy is a precious resource for all animals during the winter and flying away can be costly to the bird's reserves.

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep are grazing animals which spend most of their time on steep, rocky cliffs, protected from prey. Their main advantage in these areas is the ability to climb steep, rocky cliff faces, using ledges as narrow as 2 inches for support. Bighorn sheep are well known for their mating habits. Male sheep, called rams, butt heads in battles that can last hours. The winner earns the mating rights to female sheep, or ewes. The long horns of rams are used as protective features during these battles. The ram's long horns depict dominance in the herd. The long horns of a bighorn sheep can weigh as much as all the bones in a sheep's body, up to about 30 lbs.

Article Written By Jim Jansen

Jim Jansen has been writing articles since 2005 and has been featured in publications such as "The River Watch," and also contributes to Trails.com and LIVESTRONG.COM. He has a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing from Michigan State University. Jansen specializes in outdoor recreation and environmental topics.