Montana Outdoors

December 13, 2011

One thing leads to another and…

Filed under: Animals, Bighorn sheep, Winter — Tags: , — montucky @ 10:00 pm

Thinking today about the winter conditions in our mountains, how the trees can tolerate the elements, and the tracks in the snow on Buttercup Ridge, I remembered I had not posted this photo from last February of another species capable of surviving in severe weather, the Big Horn Sheep. (On many winter days I wouldn’t mind having a jacket like the one he’s wearing!)

Big Horn ram


  1. I’m always amazed by their eyes. They have this other-worldly look to them, as though they can see through time. Beautiful photo.


    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — December 13, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

    • They do. I know of no other animal with eyes like theirs.


      Comment by montucky — December 13, 2011 @ 10:43 pm

      • They are best photographed in profile though as their wall-eyed look from the front is pretty strange-looking. Makes me wonder if their brain is wired to interpret the input from each eye separately?


        Comment by Kim — December 14, 2011 @ 11:39 am

  2. You got so close to take this photo! It allows one to really have a sense of the animal. Once in high school I got to see Big Horn Sheep not too far from me, in Colorado. And another time in the Grand Canyon. But not this close. Thank you.


    Comment by C.C. — December 13, 2011 @ 10:43 pm

    • Big Horns are plentiful where I live. This one was only a few miles from my house. For some reason I seem to have an extraordinary rapport with them and they often tolerate me at very close range. Perhaps they can sense the respect and admiration I have for them.


      Comment by montucky — December 13, 2011 @ 10:48 pm

  3. Great shot. I have seen a few Bighorns lately but could not get a shot like that.


    Comment by Mike — December 14, 2011 @ 3:27 am

    • There are quite a few of them around here and sometimes it’s possible to get quite close. Many times this time of year they will be right on the highway and lots of folks can get a good look at them. This one was just a few miles from my house.


      Comment by montucky — December 14, 2011 @ 11:41 pm

  4. I saw quite a few of them several years ago when we were in the Canadian Rockies–they were often quite friendly and came right up to parked cars. That was the trip my camera quit working a few hours into our trip though. (Now when I go anywhere I bring two cameras along!) Beautiful animal and amazing photo! He looks so calm.


    Comment by kateri — December 14, 2011 @ 5:44 am

    • Many times there will be a group of them on the highway not far from here and people can get photos right from their cars. Other times they will be as wild as can be. Usually I can get very close to them.


      Comment by montucky — December 14, 2011 @ 11:43 pm

  5. This is superb!!! I’ve seen them far away but never this close!!!


    Comment by dhphotosite — December 14, 2011 @ 8:25 am

    • I have been very close to them dozens of times and always enjoy it. This was perhaps 30 feet away.


      Comment by montucky — December 14, 2011 @ 11:44 pm

  6. A very good and well balanced photo, and very interesting to study the sheep. Are they wild?


    Comment by Giiid — December 14, 2011 @ 9:33 am

    • Yes, completely wild. We live right in the middle of their range and they are willing to share it with us.


      Comment by montucky — December 14, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

  7. So nice!


    Comment by apostolcornel — December 14, 2011 @ 10:49 am

  8. Wow! Beautiful close-up!


    Comment by Barbara — December 14, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

    • I love getting close enough to fill the frame. This was taken with a 70 – 300mm lens at 220mm.


      Comment by montucky — December 14, 2011 @ 11:49 pm

  9. I don’t even wear a coat unless it is below freezing so I would die in a jacket like that!! Nice photograph!!


    Comment by kcjewel — December 14, 2011 @ 5:52 pm

    • It’s below freezing here almost continually now until into late March, and the nights are quite cold, especially if there is a breeze. They will shed that thick coat next June.


      Comment by montucky — December 14, 2011 @ 11:51 pm

  10. Wow, I can’t believe you didn’t post this photo for so long, it’s great. I love the subtle colors and just the fact you were so close.


    Comment by Candace — December 14, 2011 @ 8:09 pm

    • I post somewhere around 20% of the photos that I keep, and I have a lot of photos of the Big Horns. When I can get into a group of them I take a lot of photos.


      Comment by montucky — December 14, 2011 @ 11:53 pm

  11. I need a jacket after looking at the photo.



    Comment by knightofswords — December 14, 2011 @ 8:22 pm

    • I know. I have a sheep skin coat, but not from that kind of sheep of course. It’s very warm!


      Comment by montucky — December 14, 2011 @ 11:55 pm

  12. Oh! I’ve never seen a photo of one of these taken so close, and with such detail. The eyes are compelling – the unusual color contributes to the effect, I think. Just a splendid animal – although his expression might lead one to think he’ll be happy when February and March give way to some springtime!


    Comment by shoreacres — December 14, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

    • They are magnificent animals and I enjoy being close to them, especially in the high places where they live. Some times they will not let me get close, but other times they seem as tame as can be. One day a few years ago I stalked two large rams for 150 yards, crawling on my belly down a grassy slope to get a close shot. At about 30 yards I was able to get several pretty good photos and slowly stood up. One, the smaller of the two, just stood and looked at me with curiosity. The larger one looked at me for about a minute, turned his back to me and lay down, looking out over the valley below. You never know!


      Comment by montucky — December 14, 2011 @ 11:59 pm

  13. Survival of the fittest! Great photo!


    Comment by Roberta — December 14, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

    • Yes the Big Horns are an excellent example of that. I’ve have seen the rams contests for dominance and it’s an awesome sight.


      Comment by montucky — December 15, 2011 @ 12:01 am

  14. Amazing photo and an incredible animal (majestic)! OK, tell us how you got such a good shot. Stalking? Telephoto lens? Terrific picture.


    Comment by Wild_Bill — December 15, 2011 @ 6:23 am

    • Luck. I did use a 70 – 300mm lens, but he filled the frame at 220mm. I had stopped to photograph a scene along the river and noticed this guy and a few more not too far away. They let me get quite close when I made a half-hearted stalk. I have always had great luck in getting quite close to them.


      Comment by montucky — December 15, 2011 @ 11:39 am

  15. Oh my, what a great capture that is so close-up and detailed. A magnificent animal! Wild and free. Really, beautiful!


    Comment by Anna — December 15, 2011 @ 10:08 am

    • “Magnificent” is a good word for them. Their numbers had declined to very low levels a couple of decades ago but now they have been doing very well. There is a stretch of about 50 miles here where the habitat is excellent for them, with a tall ridge along the valley that has no good access for humans because of its steepness and it sits in a roadless area. They spend most of their time up there, coming down sometimes in winter into the valley. I’m lucky to be about in the middle of that range and so I see them often.


      Comment by montucky — December 15, 2011 @ 11:44 am

  16. Hi Montucky, What a wonderful picture of the Big Horn! I have seen the desert variety in the Anzo-Borrego State Park in Southern California near Palm Springs adn the Salton Sea. Beautiful! Have a great Friday tomorrow and a nice evening tonight!


    Comment by wildlifewatcher — December 15, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

    • I have seen the desert Big Horns too. I feel blessed to be able to get up close to these here and really get to know them, their habits and habitat. Magnificent animals!


      Comment by montucky — December 15, 2011 @ 10:35 pm

  17. He is a beautiful animal and well suited to his environment. Big Horn colors are so very earthy.


    Comment by Scott Thomas Photography — December 15, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

    • Yes, their colors blend in well in the cliffy, rocky terrain where they prefer to live. They have a very successful survival strategy although they are vulnerable to things that humans have introduced, in particular the diseases they can catch from domestic sheep.


      Comment by montucky — December 15, 2011 @ 10:38 pm

  18. maybe I could stand colder weather with a coat like his!


    Comment by silken — December 15, 2011 @ 7:15 pm

    • Yes, it’s quite a coat, very thick and dense and warm. The winter protection these big animals have up here is amazing!


      Comment by montucky — December 15, 2011 @ 10:40 pm

  19. I am glad that You found this photo from Your collection. It stopped me and I had to admire the beauty of Big Horn Sheep.


    Comment by sartenada — December 16, 2011 @ 12:23 am

    • I wish that you could see them the way I do here. They are heavier than they appear in my photos, weighing up to 300 pounds and the rams bear themselves in a most regal fashion that just demands respect.


      Comment by montucky — December 16, 2011 @ 11:59 pm

  20. For sure you need a coat like his up there. My gosh, they are heavier than they appear in your photo? Wow! Such a hardy animal. I have seen them in the Truchas of New Mexico. They are beautiful.


    Comment by Jack Matthews — December 17, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

    • They have become perhaps my favorite of all the large wildlife. While they often tolerate my presence, I have the distinct feeling that it because of their self confidence: they know that if they needed to they could butt me off the mountain but prefer to co-exist with me peacefully.


      Comment by montucky — December 17, 2011 @ 11:33 pm

  21. WOW! An absolutely spectacular capture of this beauty!


    Comment by Marcie — December 18, 2011 @ 11:52 am

    • Thanks Marcie. I see them often and its always a treat. Getting close is a real privilege!


      Comment by montucky — December 18, 2011 @ 10:45 pm

  22. What a beautiful animal. I would so love to admire one in person.


    Comment by Bo Mackison — December 18, 2011 @ 8:45 pm

    • I wish you could see one in person. They are especially good looking this time of year when they have their new thick coats. I feel good just knowing that they are out there living free and wild!


      Comment by montucky — December 18, 2011 @ 10:46 pm

  23. I’m bringing both my sheep-lined winter coat and a down jacket rated for -30° so I think I’ll be warm enough… a lovely image!


    Comment by Victoria — December 28, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

    • I’m sure you will be more than warm enough this year! We hit a high of 48 today which is unheard of this time of year! Fortunately the higher elevations are still cool and getting a lot of snow.


      Comment by montucky — December 29, 2011 @ 12:35 am

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