BearHead Photography has many images to showcase his expansive portfolio on mammals of North America, and here are his wild bighorn sheep, dall sheep, stone sheep, and mountain goat pictures.
After climbing up the mountain and searching for sheep, I finally found a few walking a ridge coming my direction. As this sheep paused to check me out, Mt. McKinley rose in the background.
The winter in Glacier is not pleasant. It is often quite cold and snowy, and the wind will blow up to 90 mph at times. On this day, the wind was around 40-50 mph and making it hard to take a still shot. Fortunately, I was able to position myself in a place to capture the bighorn in front of the mountain when it walked on the ridge.
Large Winter Range
Big horn sheep love hanging out high in the mountains. They are extremely agile and can stand on cliffs that are very steep. In the Canadian Rockies these sheep get to live with an incredible view of mountains and glaciers high in the mountains.
Watching dall sheep high up on a mountain is always a great experience, because I get far away from tourists and am alone with the sheep. I was not expecting this behavior when I hiked up that day, but it was awesome. These three rams head butted over and over, and the echo through the mountains was incredible!
Finding large rams is not an easy task. They have been around a long time and know how to avoid being seen. I caught this very nice ram as he was going over this hillside just before he went out of view.
Dall sheep are only found in the far north and high in the mountains. In the late evening as this sheep moved across this valley, the Alaskan Range was behind him and mountains he would rather be on.
Sometimes animals realize just how large they are compared to their fellow mates. A look like this toward me was to let me know he was boss of the area and showing me the size of his horns.
Their are big horn rams, and then there are big horn rams like this guy. This full curl ram did not like to be seen, and would hang on the sides of mountains that couldn't be seen by people. He owned the area when he was around other rams, and knew he was the king of the mountains.
Alaska is a beautiful state with amazing landscapes and animals. As we were leaving these mountain goats, I noticed how calming of a scene it was. Seeing the mountain goats resting on the cliff by the sea's edge with endless water behind the cliff created a very serene scene.
During the winter bighorn rams move into the valley to more easily find grasses to eat under the snow. But this winter was a mild winter and they had much more area to browse, so this monster ram was moving back up to the safety of the cliffs.
After hiking high into the mountains in Canada, I finally found some dall sheep. I was excited to see new lambs and be able to photograph them. These lambs had likely never seen a human before, and were trying to figure out what I was.
There are bighorn sheep in numerous places all across the west. However, massive sheep like this guy are few and far between. So when I found this guy a few years ago, I was hoping to one day get him in the snow. It took me a while to find him, once the snow came, but seeing him in the snow and him being even larger than the year before was worth the wait.
Big horn sheep have always been one of my favorite animals to photograph. The rams are awesome, and seeing a large bodied full curl ram doesn't happen every day. This ram was very calm and moved around on this ridge slowly and allowed me to frame him perfectly against Electric Peak!
Living on the Edge
The higher you go on a mountain, the harder it is to find a flat place to rest. This is fine with dall sheep, as their hooves are made so that they can move easily and be stable on the edge of the mountain.
Sheep of all kinds will fight other males for the right to mate. These two rams were continually going at it and trying to wear the other down and be the dominant sheep. The power with every head crash was amazing to watch.
When it is a good fall in Denali, there isn't a more beautiful place to be. Hiking high into the mountains, I encountered this ram on a ridge, and the fall background really made this sheep stand out!
During the winter months, the big horn rams will hang out together in a group. This lake dries up almost completely during the winter, when there isn't much run off to feed the lake. The rams were thirsty and went to the dry lake bed to drink from what little water remained of the lake.
In the winter, sheep will move down from the mountain tops to lower elevations to more easily find open grass. As this ram was walking an open hillside, the mountains it lives in during the summer were its backdrop.
Where a sheep spends its winter makes a big difference in how it makes out during the winter. If it stays high in the mountains, it will struggle all winter. But most sheep move to lower elevation where it is easier to find food. But even in the lower elevations it will snow and cover up their food.
It's not very common to come across a ram with this much mass in the Yellowstone ecosystem. He stood out much more than any other rams around him, and was a monster ram!
Don't you wish you could live in a place like this? To be able to live in a place where the mountains and river valleys have so much natural curve, that it feels like it could go on forever.
In the winter sheep and other animals can get some water from snow, but they still need unfrozen water to survive. There is too much oxygen in snow. After following this sheep for a while, it headed down to the river to refresh itself.
Baby mountain goats are a small pretty ball of white fur. They hang very close to mother for protection and to learn how to survive in the mountains. This little guy was grazing on grass and drinking water as mother watched over nearby.
Mountain goats are only found in the high elevations of the mountains. They are safe from predators on the towering cliffs, and can move around with ease. This goat was on a cliff looking out over the valley to see if it wanted to go forage on grass.
These mountain goats were up well before the sun rise. It took a while, but once the sun crested the mountain and the light hit these goats you could see them smile.
After hours of hiking, I finally got high enough to where the dall sheep were. To my good surprise, there were lots of mothers and babies. The mothers had the lambs all together and appeared to be taking turns watching them as the other mothers ate.
A winter landscape can create a much different look to animals than in other seasons. There isn't as much color, but that allows the animals natural color to stick out more. When it began to snow, the river and dark background allowed this large sheep to stick out and be the main focus of the photo.
A Ram's Look
Big Horn sheep are foragers. Foraging for grass in the winter is not very easy in Yellowstone. As this ram was looking around he had an intense look because he could not see any nearby. With this discouraging discovery it did not give up, and ended up finding some a few hills over.
Denali National Park is a huge park. Every mountain valley looks small because the mountains are so large, but most valleys are miles across. Traveling from one mountain range to the next is risky for dall sheep. Their predators are in the valleys waiting on them. This herd wasted no time and ran most of the way across the open tundra.
Mountain goats like to hang out of the steep cliffs for protection. They will come down to the meadows to eat though. I was able to get below the hill and wait for this goat to slowly come my way and shoot back up at him as he was eating.
There is just something about baby sheep that is hard to not watch. They stay close to mom, but have incredible balance from a very young age. While mom was licking salt from the rocks, this lamb walked under her legs and was curious about its surroundings.
To get food in the winter, sheep and other animals must dig through the snow to find grass and other plants. One of the ways sheep move the snow is with their horns. After digging in the snow a few hours, this big horn rams horns were covered in snow.
One of the neat things about dall sheep is that they grow different types of antlers. These two large males are great examples of a traditional tight curl, and one that spreads out wider.
High in the mountains is where dall sheep live in the summer. There is a large high mountain meadow that I can often find them in. On this evening these rams got scared by a fox and ran a short distance before stopping. But they ran in front of Denali and it made for an incredible memory.
All living things need water to survive. In the mountains there is more water where there is more snow. Mountain goats live high in the mountains, meaning there is more waterfalls where they live. This mountain goat was going to a waterfall to get a drink.
Dall sheep do not have as thick of horns as big horn sheep. They are even referred to as a thin horned sheep. There horns can come in a tight curl or a more wide curl. This nice ram had more than a full curl.
Looking down a steep rocky cliff can be scary. These two young lambs were nervous and unsure of how to move off this rock. They stood there together a while, and then just decided to go for it.
All mothers are protective of their young. When these sheep heard a loud noise down the mountain, the young baby hid behind mother to make sure everything was safe.
A Serious Look
Billy goats are much larger than their female counterparts. It is obvious when they come near a group of females, and when they want to be noticed. This goat was eyeing another male to let it know who was boss.
Big horn sheep spend their lives living on the edge. They are well built for it, but that doesn't mean they don't have scary moments. As this ram was walking the snow began to give way and he had to move higher up off the cliff.
Stone sheep have a much smaller horn than bighorn, and are classified as a skinny horn sheep. Finding a nice stone ram is very hard and not many people get to photograph one. This nice ram allowed me to photograph him for a couple of hours, and here he stretches before getting up and moving in the evening.
This was a very cooperative big horn sheep. Not only did it stand on the edge of the cliff, but it stayed there. It took a long time to scan the area beneath him before deciding it was safe for him to go down.
I was fortunate to spend all day with these sheep, and be able to watch their social dynamic. They were cautious of their surroundings the entire time they were eating. A marmot called out and they all turned and looked at once.
Looking for Spring
Winter can last a long time and be very hard on animals. Once the weather starts to turn a little nicer and the snow begins to melt, animals get excited. They are ready to be done with the snow and be able to eat easily.