Posted by: aarontheisen | February 26, 2012

Wildlife viewing: bighorn sheep

Bighorn sheep are so named because of the large, curved horns on males (rams). Photo: Alan Bauer.

Sullivan Lake, in the Selkirk Mountains, provides one of the most exciting winter wildlife-viewing opportunities in eastern Washington. Right now, wildlife-watchers with decent binoculars can watch bighorn sheep precariosly perched on the slopes of Hall Mountain, on the east side of the lake.

Bighorns, so named because of the large, curved horns on males (rams)–females have much smaller, spiked horns–employ a dramatic survival strategy: go where predators won’t dare. The steep, rocky slopes of Hall Mountain provide nutritious browse and treacherous footing for would-be predators such as cougars.

Almost wiped out from most of their Western range in the early 20th century, bighorn sheep have made a remarkable comeback.

Several herds can be found in northeast Washington, but of them the Hall Mountain herd is the most well known. Although the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife no longer maintains a feeding station for the mountain goats, a healthy population still clambers about the steep slopes on the east side of the lake.

Driving directions:  One mile south of Ione, turn east onto Sullivan Lake Road 9345. Travel 8 miles to Noisy Creek Campground, on the right. A wide, plowed pull-out area just north of the campground entrance provides a prime viewing spot.

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Responses

  1. It’s good to see them making a comeback there! They really started to recover here about 20 years ago and they are doing extremely well now. Magnificent animals!

    • I haven’t seen the ones on Hall Mountain–although last time I was there a gentleman was glassing them with a high-powered scope–but I encountered a big herd over on Vulcan Mountain, near Curlew, the year before last. What a great wildlife experience!


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