Friday, September 9, 2016

Dall Sheep

As a young boy with a love of animals, and a subscriber to Outdoor Life, I became aware of a hunting term known as the grand slam. A grand slam required a hunter to get a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, a desert bighorn sheep, a Dall sheep and a Stone sheep. Of those, the Dall sheep seemed almost mythical to me. So beautiful and so far away, in a land of rock, snow and ice. 
Dall sheep ram at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve.
So as we prepared for a trip to Alaska one of my desires was to see Dall sheep and I scheduled a number of places which would give us the best chance to see them: a trip into Denali NP, the drive around Turnagain Arm south of Anchorage, and a visit to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve where Dall sheep were in large, natural, enclosures. 

Dall sheep ewe at Yukon Wildlife Preserve.
It was not until planning for the trip that I became aware of the term "thinhorn sheep." The Dall and Stone sheep are both subspecies of thinhorn sheep, while the Rocky Mountain bighorn and desert bighorn are subspecies of bighorn sheep. Dall sheep are found in Alaska in the Alaska and Brooks Ranges and in the Kenai, Wrangell, Chugach and Talkeetna mountains. They are found outside Alaska in the Richardson and Mackenzie mountains along the Yukon/Northwest Territories border, in the mountainous regions of Yukon and down into the northwest corner of British Columbia. 

We did see some Dall sheep in Denali NP, but they were just white specks way up on a mountain. Our bus driver confirmed that they are common along the side of the road earlier in the year, but by late July when we were there, they are up high.
Photo taken with a 500 mm lense. They are far away. It took me a minute or two on the bus to find them when others were pointing them out on the mountain. Note the mist up on the mountain.
This all-too-grainy enlargement shows two of the Dall sheep, one a youngster and the other a ram. 
When we drove the coastal road along Turnagain Arm south of Anchorage, both down into the Kenai Peninsula and back again, there was no sign of them, although I'd read they were common to see along the road. Our cause was not helped by a fire in the area which had many of the drive-outs closed for use by firefighters. Ironically, when we caught a bus in Anchorage for our Princess Cruise out of Whittier, we drove along Turnagain Arm and two beautiful Dall sheep were on a small rise right next to the road. The bus did not stop and the perfect opportunity to photograph two beautiful sheep up close was lost.  
Ewe at Yukon Wildlife Preserve.
We were rewarded with some nice views of Dall sheep at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, which had them grouped together with Stone sheep. I would love to get some closer pictures of them in the wild. Alaska is so big, wild and wonderful, perhaps its siren song may draw us back some day. 

1 comment:

  1. I love their horns. They remind me of the Big Hair Flip hairdos popular in the 1960s. How they get around with those huge horns to carry everywhere I will never understand.