There is nothing quite like seeing two bighorn sheep rams slam their horned heads against each other. As they turn and twist their heads, getting ready for impact, a stillness fills the air before a deafening crack echos off the cliffs from the hard heads crashing together. They may repeat the battle a few times, or one ram will be victorious and the loser walks or runs away. The winner will then continue on, hoping to get a chance to mate with the ewe that he has been following around for countless hours.
Where can you watch this all happen? I let you know in this post.
Witnessing the bighorn sheep mating season is one of those events that might just be once-in-a-lifetime. Even if it is something you go and watch each year, seeing it in person continually gives a unique glimpse into the relationships that bighorn sheep have with each other. During mating season, you’ll see the rams battle. Watch them chase ewes up and down hillsides. Witness rams kicking both rams and ewes to keep them in line. You’ll even probably get a glimpse of rams and ewes mating. So be ready to see a bighorn sheep penis or two.
Some may shirk at that last sentence, but honestly, you won’t want to miss this. If you are heading to the park this week, or even just in the area, I can’t suggest seeking out some bighorn sheep sightings enough. From large congregations of sheep on hillsides, to a few burly looking rams battling it out, this is a great time to visit and one that is sure to provide some incredible, and potentially graphic memories and pictures.
Where to go.
There are three places that may grab you access to see this incredible event in person. One of the most consistent locations over the last view years to see the bighorn sheep battles and mating is located outside the park, near Yellowstone Hot Springs off of Highway 89. Right now, the absolute best place to see bighorn sheep battling and mating is on the other side of the bridge crossing the Yellowstone River. As of late-November of 2022, the sheep are congregating in large numbers near the dirt road and have been battling and mating pretty right next to cars. Be aware that the rams will battle and do not care if your car is nearby. Just a few days ago, I had two rams fighting 30 feet away from the car and quickly had to move when one ram attacked another and pushed it within inches of the vehicle. Definitely stay in your car and keep it on and ready to move so you don’t suffer some serious damage by aggressive bighorn sheep. Also, if you do head here to watch the sheep, please pull off the road and be aware of people driving back and forth. There are residents in this area who need to get by.
Another time-tested location is found on the cliffs between Mammoth Hot Springs and Gardiner, Montana. Before the June 2022 floods, the roadway between mammoth and Gardiner went right along the cliff, giving a great glimpse at bighorn sheep habitat. Today, and probably forever, the road is closed to vehicles. However, those up for an adventure can make their way along the washed out road and boot path to the cliffs to potentially witness the event on foot. If you do decide to attempt this, there are two main things to know. First, the road is not groomed or maintained and there are sections that may be slippery or potentially dangerous, proceed with caution at your own risk. This is not an adventure for everyone and should only be visited by those who are used to traveling in snow and ice on less than ideal conditions. Second, if you do see bighorn sheep in this area, stay very far away. While the viewing distance is 25 yards, the bighorn sheep are aggressive and fast and can quickly close that distance in a matter of seconds when battling or chasing away other males. I recommend staying at least 100 yards away at all times. If they move toward you, move away from them.
If walking the washed out road to view bighorn sheep seems a little sketchy, no worries!
You can get a glimpse of the area from a pullout along the new road connecting Gardiner to Mammoth Hot Springs. I also recommend heading toward the Yellowstone River Picnic Area, just past Roosevelt Junction. While rams are not as common here, there are usually bighorn sheep in the area. If you’d rather see these sheep from a short hike, consider hiking up the path from the Yellowstone River Picnic Area and wandering along the snowy canyon rim. I see them here every so often. You can also watch them from across the canyon if you head up the closed road at Roosevelt and walk toward Tower Falls. I often see them on the opposite side of the canyon from the Calcite Springs Overlook. Finally, if you do decide to head into Lamar Valley, keep an eye out for bighorn sheep on the hillsides around the confluence of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek.
One last thing.
There are dozens of spots where bighorn sheep may be, so keep your eyes open and scan as often as possible. The listed spots are your best bets, but the locations are not the only places where you may witness the amazing sights and sounds of bighorn sheep mating season.
Want more details on the best tips and locations for wildlife sightings on your Yellowstone trip?
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