Bighorn Sheep are the state mammal for Colorado, and a drive through our mountain areas gives you a big clue why. There are more bighorn sheep in Colorado than any other state, and there are herds all over central and western Colorado. So it’s kind of fitting that I work at a place called Sheep Lakes during the summers at Rocky Mountain National Park. The sheep come down from the neighboring cliff-like hillside to four small lakes in a meadow to eat the mud there. Visitors come by all day long looking for sheep and asking when the sheep will be there (around lunchtime, maybe?). We keep a sheep count on the board at the little kiosk for visitors to see. However, during a good summer, we are lucky to see sheep maybe 35% of the days, and there are many “sheepless” days when there is not only no sheep, but really no wildlife to speak of. So when we get sheep there, like we did earlier week, it’s very exciting for me, the volunteers working with me, but most of all the visitors.
The funny thing about all of this is that all winter long I was driving over to Winter Park to go skiing or sometimes on I-70, and I can’t tell you how many times there were sheep right along the roadside in Clear Creek Canyon, or right along Interstate 70 going through Georgetown. Groups of sheep sometime stand right on the shoulder of the highway with cars whizzing past at 65 mph or more. It made me chuckle to think of all those visitors desperate to see just one sheep at Sheep Lakes — when what they really needed to do was just go drive down the highway!