Those of you that get the newsletter know that I mentioned that it’s prime bighorn viewing season. Not 5 minutes after that did they show up! However, this small herd was very jumpy. Maybe there is a lion in the neighborhood and they are just on edge, no way to know. But they didn’t stick around for long and I was only able to grab this shot as they were making haste up the mountainside. Regardless, these are animals that are always a joy to see. People come from all over the country (or world in some cases) to get a glimpse of the awesome animals.
So, besides McGregor, as this is one of the best places to see the sheep in the entire state of Colorado, where are a few spots in the area where you have a good chance of spotting the sheep? Here are a few:
- Big Thompson Canyon: We affectionately refer to the sheep seen here as “our” sheep. Back in the 90’s there was a widespread pneumonia epidemic among the two herds that frequent McGregor (the Black Canyon herd and the Mummy herd). Some of the healthy ones we captured and released in the Big Thompson Canyon to widen the gene pool and help ensure the success of the Colorado bighorn herds. They have flourished and and can now often be seen as you drive through the canyon. It is a fantastic place to spot sheep!
- Mt. Ida Trail: Now, you’ll have to work a little for this one, but your chances of seeing sheep out in the wilderness is better than anywhere else I have been. I have probably hiked this trail 10 times and I’d guess that I’ve seen sheep on 8 of those outings. Sometimes they’re far away, sometimes they’re close, but there is a good chance you’ll see them. Most of the guests I have sent there have had luck as well. But this is a steep, alpine hike, and the summit of Ida is about 5 miles from the trail head, so one needs to take precautions and be prepared for the conditions that the alpine tundra presents.
- Sheep Lakes: This one is a bit easier to get to, as the lakes are right next to Hwy 34 in Horseshoe Park just inside Rocky Mountain National Park. The sheep frequent these lakes to lick the mineral rich mud on their shores.
When you do see the sheep, stay calm and quiet as these animals can get stressed pretty easily. Do not approach them, and enjoy from a distance. These are very special animals and we want to keep them as stress free and as healthy as possible!