Yellowstone Valley Zoo: Bighorn Sheep


Most of the people that visit Sweetwater Fly Shop have traveled here for the world-class fly fishing for wild brown, rainbow, and cutthroat trout.  But trout are just part of the complete ecosystem that surrounds, and includes, the Yellowstone River near our shop.  Coming from Pennsylvania, I find the Montana wildlife fascinating, and my travels around my new adopted home have allowed me to photograph many of the creatures that live here.

Now I know these shots aren’t up to National Geographic standards (some were shot with my cell phone).  But they’ll give you an idea of the specialness of the Yellowstone River Valley around Livingston and Gardiner.  When I forwarded some of the photos to my family back east, one of my brothers commented that it seemed like there’s a zoo on the side of every road.  So over the next couple days I plan to write a couple of blogs, looking at the different animals along the Yellowstone River zoo.  Today it’s Big Horn Sheep.

Every year in the fall, bighorn sheep descend into the area around Cinnabar, between Gardiner and the Yankee Jim Canyon, to mate on the banks of the Yellowstone River.  I took these shots there in the beginning of December.




Sadly, pneumonia, which is contracted through contact with domesticated sheep, is a great threat to these majestic animals.  There was an outbreak in this exact heard  at the end of 2014, detected not long after I took these photos.  You can read about it here:

and here:

Some animals died, as the stories found in the links above detailed, but many of the sheep survived and are fine.  They’ve passed their genes along to continue the herd in the mountains and hills beside the Yellowstone River Valley, just upstream from Sweetwater Fly Shop.



Guess he’s wondering what I find so interesting



This looks cute but it’s really an act of aggression.  He’s trying to show his dominance by putting his head on the other sheep’s back.  I’ve seen my dogs do this to each other.



Someone’s looking for a fight.


I was only fortunate enough to see the sheep butt horns one time.  It was loud and ferocious.  Here’s a link with a little more bighorn sheep head-butting information:

Make sure you check out the National Geographic You Tube link at the bottom of the page.


More to come tomorrow!




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