Desert Critters

Bighorn Sheep at the Living Desert

It’s always a bit frustrating to look at zoo animals. They seem to be hyper-aware of the human gaze and prefer to avoid it. It reminds me of a former trip to Nova Scotia, where Martine was determined to find a moose. So we went to the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park north of Halifax to see their moose. Well, the moose was there, but didn’t want to be seen; so he hid behind some plants. When we tried to circle around to see him, we found the route closed. Not only closed but guarded by a determined naturalist. So much for that!

I have seen bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) only two or three times in my life: once at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego County, and the rest of the time at the Living Desert Zoo in Palm Desert, CA. And not all the time, either. This particular day, they seemed to congregate in full view of park visitors.

Another Bighorn Sheep Right by the Fence

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I wasn’t particularly upset at the animals that were in hiding. I had visited three or four times before, and I was more interested in just taking it easy in the shade during a typically hot desert day. Still, it was nice to see the bighorns come crowding down from the hill.

Looking For Bullwinkle

Martine at Manchester/Boston Airport with Moose Sculpture

Wildlife tourism tends to be a bit tricky, because most wildlife is not terribly interested in interacting with humans. We had no problem seeing the Magellanic penguins in Argentina last November, mainly because penguins by nature just look at us quizzically until we make a threatening move toward them. And then the beaks come into play. We easily saw over 100,000 of the cute avians at their Punta Tombo mating grounds in coastal Chubut province.

On the other hand, we have had no luck with puffins or moose. We went to Orkney in Scotland to see the puffins in 1997, but they weren’t there yet. Then I went by myself to their Vestmannaeyjar Islands breeding grounds in September 2001, but they were just leaving.

Moose are a different matter altogether. They do not migrate, which I suppose is a blessing as they are so very large (nine feet or so). One could see them if one gets up early enough or late enough. The problem is that we always look for them around noon, when they are safely ensconced in their forest fastness digesting their last meal. At the B&B we were staying at in Chéticamp, Nova Scotia, a whole moose family walked past the picture window of the dining room around 7 am the day before we arrived. But they did not stage a repeat performance the next two days, even though I was up early looking for them, having been pledged to wake Martine up if I saw any. Nothing doing!

In 2008, we had visited a wildlife park at Shubenacadie in Nova Scotia, where there was (allegedly) a moose in an enclosure. If he was there, he was hiding around the back of the pen, where we were not allowed to walk because (supposedly) they were working on the walkway. So once again, nothing doing.

We actually did see a moose two years ago at Glacier National Park in Montana, but it was from the rear and from about a quarter of a mile away. It had just drunk some water from Fishercap Lake and was headed back into the woods. I photographed the beast with my 7X zoom:

Distant View of Moose

Well, there’s always next year!