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A bighorn sheep feeds along a dry creek in 2014 in the Badlands Wilderness Area. The Game, Fish & Parks Commission is talking about adding additional licenses and a new hunting until near Badlands National Park. 

Journal file

PIERRE | South Dakota hunters might see one or more additional licenses for bighorn sheep this fall beyond the handful being offered for part of the Black Hills. The commission is also talking about the possibility of adding a new hunting unit near Badlands National Park. 

The state Game, Fish & Parks Commission agreed Thursday on three bighorn licenses in the Elk Mountain area.

One of the licenses is designated for auction by the regional chapter for the Wild Sheep Foundation. Proceeds go back to the state Wildlife Division for sheep management. In past years, this license has sold for nearly $100,000. 

The commissioners also heard Thursday from senior wildlife biologist Chad Lehman there are sufficient rams in the Badlands unit for a hunt to happen there this year. Commission proposed to establish a new hunting unit for bighorn sheep in Pennington County east of the Cheyenne River and in Jackson County north of the White River; excluding Badlands National Park.

With the proposed new hunting unit, a total of four licenses would be available for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. 

There are now six herds of wild sheep in western South Dakota, according to Lehman.

He said the Rapid City and Deadwood herds have weak lamb-ewe ratios because of pneumonia die-offs.

The Badlands herd is sufficiently large that hunters could take as many as six rams, Lehman said.

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Staff will develop regulations for the commission to consider for a hunt on the Badlands unit, big-game chief Tom Kirschenmann said.

Kirschenmann said the commission has allowed as many as five rams total to be taken in recent times.

The commission will vote on the bighorn sheep hunting proposal at their February meeting. 

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Managing editor

Chris Huber is the managing editor at the Rapid City Journal.