Thursday, July 20, 2017

Silver Canyon Bighorn Sheep

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge

California Highway 395 runs down the middle of a giant caldera. Near Bishop California the highway runs between the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the west and the White Mountains to the east. Although the White Mountains are lesser known, White Mountain Peak (14,246’) is higher than all but two of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
There is a difference between the sheep that inhabit these two areas with those sheep to the east of 395 adapted to dry, hot and arid conditions. The sheep in the Sierra Nevada are more at home in the high basins on the western slopes in the summer and mostly the east side in the winter to avoid the heavy snowpack. This winter was especially difficult for the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep and there was heavy mortality for an already endangered species.
For some reason, the bighorn sheep to the east are less timid and more accessible. Both kinds of sheep have the same main predator, the mountain lion which is also protected but not endangered or threatened.
As usual the sheep work their way up as you photograph them. I was hand holding a Sony A7R2 with an adapted Canon 400mm f4 D.O. lens. As they continued climbing, I added a 1.4X extender, which gave me 560mm f5.6. However, when photographing sheep, the closer the better. My first photograph when they were the closest was the sharpest also. This was my second opportunity to photograph this particular group. We saw no sheep with tracking collars and no mature rams.

My wife and I spent about 2 hours watching and photographing the sheep. She had some good photographs with her compact Panasonic Lumix Zoom camera. We were blessed to share this rare encounter thanks to a tip from the “Sheep Whisperer” aka Steve Yeager. We traveled from Fresno mainly for this opportunity but just being in the eastern Sierra Nevada is good for the soul. We came over recently opened Tioga Pass through Yosemite Park. 

I have a short movie with photos and video clips on YouTube:


  1. Ah! so sweet to see the lambs. Very well done Dale and Sharon!

    1. Thanks Virginia,
      You are are a wonderful advocate for the bighorn sheep as a board member of the SNBS Foundation. Keep up the good work!