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Nebraska bighorn perspective

January 16, 2012

Saturday morning, the January sun was warm. Despite the stiff breeze, I was comfortable wearing a short-sleeved shirt topped by a down vest. (With mittens. Yes, I looked dorky.)

I desperately needed to do some time in the great outdoors.

Bugman and I decided to head over to Cedar Canyon Wildlife Management Area –  a chunk of public land managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission that’s part of the Wildcat Hills Wildlands Initiative (which has opened thousands of scenic acres to public access over the past decade or so).

We chose Cedar Canyon because it was close (we only had 2 hours to spend) and because we’d been out there once before with a couple of friends last October, so it was somewhat familiar terrain.

On this hike in October, our friends' dog was sooooo pleased to have found a fresh pile of horse pucky to roll in. Horseback riding is an approved use of the land, as is hunting. We collected and disposed of a few dozen discarded shotgun shells out there that day. Stoopid sloppy shooters.

Back in October, Bugman communed with the meaty lubber grasshoppers that were in abundance near the path we walked.

No grasshoppers in January. No bighorn sheep that we could see, either.

“Bighorn sheep?” you say. “In Nebraska?”

Yes. Bighorn sheep live in Nebraska, but only in the scenic, rocky terrain here out west. They were extirpated from their native range here in pioneer times but have been reintroduced in the Wildcat Hills and Pine Ridge areas.

Here’s a link to a small map of bighorn sheep territory from the NGPC. Here’s a screen capture from a USDA report that shows a more detailed western Nebraska map:

I would like to spot the sheep someday. Methinks I need to bring out a good set of binoculars. If you want to see pictures of Nebraska bighorns, check out the NGPC Facebook page “Panhandle collection” photo albums.

We didn’t see any sheep, but, according to Bugman, I acted like one.

Here’s me, as seen via Bugman’s cell phone camera. (I’m the pale blue dot on the ridge about 1/4 of the way down from the top of the photo.)

Bugman is not too keen on scrambling up steepish slopes, so he found a nice, sunny, grassy spot to relax while I was exploring. (What a great place for a winter picnic!)

The ridges I walked had indeed been trodden by sheep, judging from the piles of scat up there. Here’s a photo-stitched sheep’s-eye view of the landscape:

This is one of the few photos on my blog you can click to enlarge.

Here are some other interesting things I saw up there.

A wind erosion rock sculpture underneath a weathering sandstone ledge

A tiny fossilized bone fragment embedded in the sandstone. (Fossil removal is illegal, FYI.)

If you’d like to check out Cedar Canyon yourself, here are directions:

Head south on Highway 71 from Gering. Turn west on County Road T, just south of Carter Canyon Road (it’s all gravel road from here). Follow the road all until it ends in a T intersection with County Road 17. Turn left/south. A sign says the road is a dead end. You’ll cross a little wood-plank bridge and then take a 90-degree curve. Where the road forks, stay right – this will take you to the parking area.


Copyright 2012 by Katie Bradshaw

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 16, 2012 5:10 pm

    Our Farm is between S and T on the west side of 71!!

  2. Katie Bradshaw permalink
    January 16, 2012 5:21 pm

    Oh! I should wave when I go by!


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