June 1st, 2:01pm
At the Sheep Lakes Info Center, Ranger Don Cope’s program shared the basics of the Rocky Mountains’ iconic Bighorn Sheep. He explained how these alpine animals have suctioned hoofs to help them climb, and how their horns are made of keratin, the same protein in our fingernails. The sheep come down to these lakes, as they did during the program (chased by a spunky elk, pictured above), to eat the mineral-enriched mud.
He closed the program by sharing the story of his best day ever in the park:
“Let me tell ya the best day I ever had here. I was working right here in this area, and we had five ewes down here at this lake, and one lamb, late in the season… There’s a dead Ponderosa pine, right down there above the lake. I was standing there, the sheep were right down below me… And that particular summer, we had a den of coyotes out here. We had a mother, father, and five beautiful little pups.
That day, when I was here, the coyotes attacked! The sheep went right up there, right by me. Boy, they were headed for the hills. And who was pulling up the rear? The lamb. And that coyote’s very smart, he came around here, and he headed right toward that dead Ponderosa pine, to cut off that lamb coming up.
He didn’t see me. I was standing there and I looked up, and here came the coyote, right at me. When he saw me, he put down all fours, and came to a sliding stop about that far from me. Now what’s the question I’m waiting for. What happened to the lamb? The last time I saw it, the lamb was running up the side of the hill here, and the coyote was after it. You put any ending on it you want, but I think I know what happened.
But look! Folks! That’s natural. One animal eats another to live, right?”