Park residents learn quickly that a spontaneous crowd gaping in a single direction over the rim could mean anything from a fellow visitor scrambling for his wind-loosened golf visor to a lucky wildlife sighting. I encountered such a scrum on a recent stroll through Grand Canyon Village, and was delighted to find their visual quarry was the latter.
In this case a small grouping of desert bighorn sheep poised on a precarious ledge just beyond Verkamps Visitor Center. The crowd remained silent, an unspoken pact to prolong the magic, as we watched several females and their young, munching on the surrounding vegetation.
Though managed as a “Species of Concern” by the National Park Service due to their precariously-low numbers, Ovis canadensis can be encountered from rim-to-river throughout Grand Canyon National Park.
Indeed, many hikers and river runners feel as if they’ve been cheated should they emerge before hearing the trailing song of the canyon wren, or witnessing the improbable scamper of these sure-footed creatures across cliff and cobble.
I managed to take a few photographs before the sheep tired of the unwanted attention and relocated out of view. The crowd dispersed with renewed admiration for these amazing mammals that have graciously shared their canyon with we hominids since our arrival some 12,000 years ago.