Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bighorn Sheep

Whisky Mountain in Wind River Range (about 55 miles east of Jackson, outside of Dubois, Wyoming) is famous as a bighorn sheep habitat. Over 1,450 sheep live in the area.

Searching for herd of sheep to photograph one day in March, my friend and I drove over the Continental Divide to Dubois. Although Togwotee Pass and Jackson were in still in the midst of snowy winter, it was already spring in Dubois. Rather than white, the desert valley showed bare brown ground. Flowing water surged through the creeks.

Last time I was in Whisky Mountain Basin, I only spotted two rams on a mountain ridge, way beyond the reach of my telephoto lens. I was so disappointed as there were hundreds of deer all over the place. I was eager to capture images of bighorn sheep before I leave this area at the end of March. The weather was nice with streams of bright blue sunshine.

After passing the town of Dubois, we drove over the dirt road that leads to Whisky Mountain Basin, adjacent to a meandering creek framed in willows. There was thin layer of fresh snow over the desert ground. I was eagerly searching for a glimpse of sheep on the rocky cliff along the dirt road. I couldn’t spot a single sheep or deer, not even on the farthest mountains. In the warm weather, wildlife moves up higher elevations.

So, we decided to hike up Whisky Mountain for a while.

A few hours later, we came back to the car and drove all way back on the dirt road. I didn’t even look for sheep anymore. Suddenly, I spotted a group of animals sitting on a large flat rock. Hallelujah, sheep! A herd of bighorn sheep were resting and chewing grass only 30 feet from the road! We parked the car, approached, but they didn’t seem to care. All of them had a pair of small horns on their forehead, but I didn’t see any ram with big curly horns. I slowly open the door and walked out… click went my shutter. Slowly I moved around them to compose more shots. They were still chewing grass in a relaxed manner. After awhile, a few of them cautiously stood up and began walking. Several followed. There were a few lambs in the herd. They found another patch of grass to chew only several feet away from their original place. It was magnificent scene, all those sheep just quietly pursuing their peaceful life.