While in Colorado National Monument last month, I spotted a herd of Desert Bighorns in Fruita Canyon. They were pretty high up and not the best for photos, but among them were about 10 babies so I sat there watching them frolic in their natural habitat. I was well below them and they never showed any sign of having noticed me. As night started to take hold they retreated higher up into the canyons. Before they could get there though, they had to cross this bit, an obviously well traveled rock. Can you see the well worn path? The adults crossed with ease, the babies, however? They had lots of trouble. As you can see they were scared even to attempt it, and when they did, they would slide down the rock barely in control just able to stop themselves from a disastrous fall.
They tried and failed several times, narrowly avoiding a fall each time. They ran away back towards the comfort of the stragglers in the herd, stared at the crossing filled with trepidation looking for a route over and would watch the older sheep cross while simultaneously getting in their way. They would follow the same route as the others, but couldn't even get halfway across. I was worried wondering what was going to happen? Fall? Abandonment?
Maybe 10 minutes of this and then a brave little one attempted it and went almost vertically up the rock then across instead of just across like the older ones did. This allowed it to be in a more manageable position when it started to slide back down, which it did, but through this it had enough momentum/traction to make it across! It then took off at a lightning pace up the canyon running full speed to catch up to presumably Mom. I wish I could have got that photo. It really was a last day of school run. The others spurred on by the success followed using the same tactic, failing quite a few times but all managing it in the end.
Basically the lambs got out of a slippery spot by climbing a harder route. Not often you get to see newborn animals learning in front of your eyes. I'm sure they can handle that spot with ease now.
"But Mom I don't wanna"
The way across is found!
No lamb left behind!
And all was well in the Monument that night.
New images from Michael Underwood, a photographer living in Lake City, Colorado.