DEADWOOD | This mining mecca-turned gambling town has been welcoming visitors for nearly 140 years, including the likes of Wild Bill Hickock, Calamity Jane, Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth. But no one — rather, no thing — in recent memory has stirred up as much dust as a bighorn sheep did downtown Thursday afternoon.
Police Chief Kelly Fuller said a bighorn ewe, tracking collar intact, was spotted scoping out the Victorian facades on Deadwood’s historic Main Street between high noon and 1 p.m. The appearance, one of several since a herd of bighorns was transplanted to the Northern Hills last week, created a commotion and caused officers to serve as guides to get the animal safely across a highway that bisects the National Historic Landmark community.
“She was wearing a collar and she was headed down Pioneer Way,” the chief said. “She went over to the highway, and we were afraid it might get hit, so my officers provided some traffic control.
“She was last seen on upper Main Street heading toward Mount Roosevelt,” Fuller added.
Sgt. Tony Bradley, an 11-year veteran of the force and avid outdoorsman, the bighorn’s guide, turned on the light bar of his police cruiser and escorted the ewe across the highway without incident.
“Being an outdoorsman, I always love seeing animals, and this is a new one for the Northern Hills,” Bradley said. “She looked good, a little scared, but good. The motorists that noticed the bighorn slowed and looked out for her, but some didn’t even notice and drove right by.”
Chief Fuller and Bradley cautioned area residents to watch for all animals in the roadway, particularly a herd of 26 bighorns transplanted a week ago to the high country northeast of Deadwood by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks. Vehicles may be more of a threat to the Canadian transplants than the mountain lions that roam the Hills, they said.
“These bighorns aren’t used to highway-speed vehicles, and they will do significant damage to your car,” Bradley warned. “They’re small and stout, and they will do a lot of damage if you hit them.”
The 1,300-mile road trip from Alberta to the Black Hills last week does not appear to have curbed the bighorns’ enthusiasm for travel. Of course, they didn’t drive. Since their release, they have been spotted and photographed from Nemo Road to Highway 385 at its junction with Highway 85 south of Deadwood.