I’ve been hoofin it lately to get the pictures of Yellowstone’s big boys post processed and uploaded to the Smugmug galleries (link here). This particular set posed a bit of a problem due to the noise that came from the high ISO they were shot at. If I remember correctly, all but the last shot here was taken the first day we were in Yellowstone and has the distinction of being the second animal we encountered out there (and reason why it was selected as the second post of the large mammal series). Giselle and David were with us that morning and they actually alerted us to the spot where we found this specimen.
They had a similar encounter on a previous outing out there. As predicted, we found this particular one taking a stroll along the rocky slopes. I was eager to try out the Beast but to be honest was still trying to get comfortable with it. As a result I overcompensated with the ISO on a few of the shots to address a dreary (and cold) morning. This left some extra post processing to get rid of the additional noise and draw out some extra clarity/sharpness. Most importantly, it gave me a chance to get some practice shots off before we entered the heart of Yellowstone. These first two are definitely my favorites of the set since you can quickly distinguish the animal from the background.
Hit the Jump to view the rest of the shots
It just occurred to me I didn’t mention what you are looking at. In case you live a sheltered life or haven’t driven by a Dodge dealership, these are shots of Bighorn Sheep. Unfortunately, our subject doesn’t really sport the large curved horns of the ram. It is difficult to tell if this is a juvenile or a female (ewe), but due to its size and it’s almost identical matches to images found on the web, I’m going with a female (ewe). It is easy to distinguish the rams with their impressive horns which can weigh up to 30 pounds. If you recall from the Pronghorn post (link here), we do not have the same volume of reference materials on the larger animals that we do on our feathered friends. So once again, we turn to the trusty Wikipedia for interesting facts to share. Take for instance that the rams can weigh upwards of 300 pounds with the ewes coming in around the 180 mark. Quite impressive for animals able to deftly navigate the treacherous mountainsides. Speaking of their habitat, they have adapted well (taking the evolution route here) to their environment and can blend nicely to their surroundings. Case in point:
Now their rump is a different story being heavily white. After a few days in the park, we basically just scanned the mountainsides trying to detect any white movement in the distance. Seems like a cruel joke to be that well camouflaged except in the ass. Kind of reminds me of the “Bummer of a Birthmark” Farside comic. Theory is the white allows other sheep to follow the lead animal to safety. I say safety is only defined as being the animal in the lead! This particular female didn’t seem to be too concerned about predators as she traversed up and down the slopes.
Hey, let’s bring that in a little…zoooooooooom. There she is.
By the way, I wonder if any of them suffer from acrophobia or if that bad gene was effectively weeded out of their pool by entries above them on the food chain? Speaking of predators, their dominant ones are cougars who possess similar mobility in the high terrain. Bears and wolves round out the enemies for the mature sheep but their lambs are victims to smaller animals including bobcats and golden eagles. Guessing a wolf is going to think twice about taking on a healthy 300 pound ram with 30 pound horns unless it is REALLY hungry.
Don’t be too concerned about their survival these days. Thanks in part to a youth organization, this animal now enjoys least concern conservation status. Turns out that Frederick Russell Burnham sounded the alarm to help these animals back in 1936 when their population had dwindled into the 150’s in the Arizona region. Pop quiz. Do any of you know who Mr. Burnham is? tick tock tick tock tick tock. The answer is (in my best condescending Alex Trebek voice) “Oh so sorry, that would ooooobviously be “Who is the Father of the Boy Scout Organization” (obvious in the sense you have the answer on a note card Alex.. sorry.. I digress). Definitely something I didn’t know and if you knew it congratulations! (now do you remember where your keys are hehehe). As a parting shot, here is another specimen we located later in the week. Not one of my best shots, but figured I’d throw it out there for your viewing pleasure.
I hope you enjoyed the shots. David and Giselle recently made us jealous thanks to their recent encounter with a large ram on their visit to Yellowstone last week. Sounds like we need to get another trip scheduled out there soon!