The best time to watch the bighorn sheep is sometime after Thanksgiving, when they just seem to be starting into the rut, and before Christmas. They are past the heavy rutting and butting days by now, but there is still a little bit of action. Of course, bighorn sheep are one of my many favorites, so I enjoy watching them any time of the year.
It was cloudy and low light with a little snow and wind by the time I got over to the North Fork Shoshone above Cody. It did not lend itself to great photography weather, but I was able to get a preview of what the next 2 days would hold. By the afternoon, many of the sheep have move down to graze in the flats.
There wasn’t much butting going on, but there were a few half-butts, shoves and leg-egging. In leg-egging, which is not a real term but one I invented 2 minutes ago, the rams walk up to each other and use a stiff front leg to tap/nudge another ram on the underside.
A few ewes were still coming in-and-out of estrus over my time there. I could see the rams get agitated or start gathering in one area. The tongues would come out to test the air.
I would then see a ram or two follow one of the ewes with their head cocked and low.
I could also see the head-back lip-curl position as the rams tested to see if the ewe was ready to be bred.
Usually the ewes weren’t, so the rams would chase them around and harass them without any breeding going on. I think I only saw a successful ram twice over the 3 days. Most of the time it was annoyed ewes running and doing their best not to be bothered.
This little one is just cute.
I liked the snow around this one.
Late evening through the mornings the rams move to the rocky ledges to sleep in a safer location. I did not get any great jumping/climbing shots on this trip, but I always love seeing them on the rocks. Tuesday morning I watched a few around the Fishhawk Trail area.
After leaving those sheep, I noticed some tracks on the ice that were covered with snow from the night before, but that I hoped might be otter tracks. I was patiently waiting and watching the river when I looked on the far hill and noticed some elk. I also think the rock formation in the middle looks like a man in a robe petting a dog.
I waited quite a while along the river, and was torn on whether I should stay for a large chunk of the day and hope for otters, or move to the South Fork. I chose to move on, but didn’t get too far before I found entertainment for the next few hours…
Side notes: I did see some bison, although maybe only a dozen total over the 2 days on the North Fork.
While watching the ram with the brown eye patch, I noticed an eagle flying along the cliffs and then land. I watched it, and another that was there, eating at something. I couldn’t get close because of where it was, and it was snowing Sunday night and still darker Monday morning, but I would have loved to have found a way to get up to the top of the ridge and then taken some pictures of these eagles eating on another predator that had somehow died. It leaves me wondering what happened to it. Could the eagles have done it? Or carried it from somewhere else? Did someone shoot it? (Although the location would lead me to say no).