Tuesday, November 5, 2013

California Bighorn Sheep ~ Visiting Sun Rivers ~ Kamloops, BC

Sunny autumn days offer some beautiful sights to see in our city of  Kamloops and the California Bighorn (also called Sierra Nevada) sheep are no exception.  They’ve made their way to Sun Rivers Golf Resort community for their annual pilgrimage to their Fall grazing ground once again and are making themselves right at home.

California Bighorn sheep going for their sunny afternoon stroll
On a recent visit to the area, we found them wandering up the street and quite oblivious to the traffic and noises of the residents.  When I did park and get out of the car, some watched where I was going and appeared to be curious but not enough to come over to my side of the road.

This California Bighorn is seen running across the golf course to join the others
The green grass of the golf course as well as the planted flowers and shrubs seem to be the perfect diet so is of great interest and are what they come for as winter nears.  They prefer to be near rocky cliffs seen nearby at the west end of the area, to avoid predators and can be seen from the highway where the area is quite rocky.  Their color blends in so well that it is easy to miss them there.

Bighorn sheep navigating the road to get to greener pastures
They do have extremely good eyesight and seem to like what they see here. Their sense of smell is not so good but they manage to find all the good plants they like. Their hearing isn’t good either, so heed them when you drive past, they’re not too road savvy.  The wildlife fence built from the Sun Rivers entrance to the Halston intersection has done a lot to prevent them from getting to the highway and being hit by the traffic.

These Bighorn sheep were watching me from across the street
Rutting season happens in November so their attitude will likely change and it may not be wise to get too close, it may make the ram feel aggressively protective about his ewes.  I prefer to use a big lense on my camera when taking wildlife photos anyway but I especially wouldn’t want to get too close at mating time.  They can run a lot faster than I can.

 Bighorn sheep stop to munch on some tasty plants
 I was interested to learn about the way the sheep segregate for most of the year until mating season in November.  The rams and ewes live in separate herds.  The old ewes take care of the related females and watch over the younger and their lambs plus both sexes of the yearlings.

Curious onlooker from behind the plants
When the rams reach the age of 2 or 3 years, they join the bachelor group.  They all learn survival by watching the older and more experience sheep.  There is an obvious hierarchy among the rams and the young respect the elders in this animal world.  The ram with the biggest horns will be the boss until he is challenged and defeated.

Young one rubs horns against the Bighorn ram's face
We must remember that even if these beautiful sheep are wandering around the front and back yards of our residential homes and they become fairly tame when not being hunted, they are still a wild animal and need to be respected as that. 

The Bighorn sheep stops to enjoy the view of the South Thompson River

During a visit out to Kamloops Lake one summer, we were able to see a large flock of the California Bighorn and got some great photos of that visit.  Click here to see more.

It is amazing that we can share our city with these beautiful animals and just enjoy the view with them, another great reason why we love Kamloops; there is no place like home.