The Little Bighorns of Boulder City

I love to see wildlife in unusual circumstances. I recently entertained a chickadee in my house for several hours while it decided to avoid the bitter cold. Of course that lead to a photo-op and possibly a future blog post.

Over the holidays I went to Las Vegas to see family. My brother Max has moved to the Fruity Chicken full-time and I often find photo ops with his menagerie, but his wife Karen and I took a run out to Boulder City one afternoon. We went in search of the bighorn sheep that live along the canyons that make up the shoreline of Lake Mead. In my mind I thought we would be headed out to the wilds to capture those amazing beasts out in the desert where I had spotted them in my youth. No, we went to a local park where the bighorns have taken over the baseball field. They come out each day to graze and on the day we visited only the smaller sheep came out from the mesquite thicket. I framed my shots carefully to avoid the playground equipment and the tennis courts.

When we first arrived they were below us in the field, over the course of about 45 minutes they walked right past us and into the playgrounds. I actually shot some of these shots with my portrait lens!

Bighorns fascinated me as a child. I used to draw them and worked really hard to get the horns just right. There was something about seeing them so near the playground that was pretty sentimental to me.

Shutterbug Notes:

I always carry at least three lenses. You never know what you will need, even when the plan is to shoot wildlife. My zoom would never have let me get those panoramic shots with the lake and mountains in the background – I was so glad to have my portrait lens in my bag. For me I need to have a minimum of a portrait lens, a macro, and a long zoom. When I travel I throw in a wide-angle. The variety gives me options and lets me make sure I get the shot I want. 

29 thoughts on “The Little Bighorns of Boulder City

  1. I’m amazed that they let you get so close.
    Thanks for sharing these wonderful shots – these are the sorts of animals I would never get to see in the wild.

    (as to lenses…….If I take all 4 out with me, I only end up using one, or maybe two. If I take one lens out with me, I always see something that requires the lenses left at home. I give up.)

    • Vicky, these guys were not exactly friendly, they just didn’t seem to care that we were there. Karen and I sat on a park bench as they walked within a couple of feet of us – it was crazy. Shooting mirror less makes my kit quite compact, so 4 lenses fit in a fairly small bag.

  2. Great shots Lorri. And thank you for giving us info about the lenses you use. I find that sort of information so helpful.

    It must have been a huge delight to see such a large herd / flock? I must say they don’t look much like regular sheep, more a cross between a goat and a deer! I was lucky to see a few whilst waiting to go through the tunnel leading to Zion National Park, a few years ago. Magnificent animals.
    Jude xx

    • Thanks Jude, I think they call them a herd – and they remind me a bit of a mountain goat too, the body is very much like a small deer. Some of this herd has been relocated to the Zion area – they really are stunning to watch, even if it’s just watching them eat.

  3. Lorre, I’ve missed you!

    These are great. I have mixed feelings about wildlife coming out to the playground. Glad to be able to really see them — through you — but sad that their habitat is disappearing so that they need to head to the playground.

    The deer in my neighborhood are so hungry that some are coming up on our (very low) deck and eating bushes that they don’t like. I have only seen footprints. My husband is very unhappy. I don’t like the bushes, either. Munch on, deers, munch on!

    • Thanks Elyse, these guys have lots of habitat, and they are multiplying so quickly that fish and game relocates them to states where the population has diminished. I think they like the park because it is easy. When I was a kid you never saw them near people, like whitetail they have adapted to our vegetation. Just beyond that mesquite thicket is raw desert, so the park is like a fast food restaurant I suppose. Lake Mead is in the Colorado River basin and this is prime territory for them. I know there was a time when they were almost gone, so although the park is not ideal, I’m happy to see them thriving.

      You know what your husband needs to protect those shrubs? A dog 🙂

  4. These are great pictures, thank you for sharing. I have to thank you as well because you caused me to dig up some old, very fond memories from when I was a kid.

    In order to make sure I got the name right, I jumped on Google to look up the name of the sheep my dad kept as “a hobby” I guess you could say, when I was a kid. Instantly, here I am looking at a grid of pictures under Google Images of the Barbados sheep we had. Thank you, thank you for evoking these memories by sharing your Big Horn pics. I used to love going out to the field – my dad just let them live as though wild, he didn’t exactly “farm” them – during the breeding season (I didn’t know when it was then) and looking for new borns. Seeing pictures reminded me of how excited I got discovering the new one.

    I really like your panoramic with the lake and mountains behind the sheep. I’m sure it was rather amusing to see big horn sheep on a playground.

    Cheers!
    eLPy

    • Wow, I just looked those up, they are beautiful and that’s exactly how the horns spiral on the bighorns. They have meaning to me from my childhood too. I remembered them being so much larger, perhaps it is because I was smaller 🙂

  5. Lorri! I was beginning to believe you got lost somewhere. haha! So glad to see you again. The pictures are fabulous! The horns do have an interesting pattern don’t they? I love the eyes of the close up! Makes me want to paint one. 🙂 The whole face not just the eye. Just wanted to be clear on that.

  6. Thanks for taking us along on this trip. I always like those sheep and you caught some good ones. I’ve noticed their shyness, or lack of it, seems to vary a lot with locations.

    • You know, when I was a kid they were very shy. I think this park has become a part of their daily routine and we are just minor inconvenience. I guess they won the turf battle, no one plays baseball there anymore 🙂

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