My Top 10 Wildlife Encounters: #7

Well, I think it’s that time again. Time for a new National Park-related list.  I previously made lists of my Top 10 Favorite National Parks and Top 10 Short and Long National Park hikes.  I’ve also shared my Bucket List and a list of places I’ve visited that I think should be on everyone’s Bucket List.  This time, I decided to go with a list of my Top 10 Wildlife Encounters.  They all occurred in National Parks; unsurprisingly most of them were in Glacier and Yellowstone.  Almost all of these were up close and personal interactions, while a couple could be better classified as “wildlife sightings” from afar.  I decided I would simply use a photo of the park of the incident as my Featured Image, so that I don’t give away the type of wildlife.  Hope you enjoy my list.


10. The massive bull elk in Mather Campground

9. The rattlesnake on the way up Half Dome

8. The one-horned mountain goat

7. Bighorn sheep on Mount Washburn


Location: Just below the summit of Mount Washburn in Yellowstone National Park.


Animal: A group of several female bighorn sheep.


Rarity (the first of a few totally subjective 1-10 scales I am using): 3 – I’m pretty sure bighorn sheep are common in Yellowstone, especially around Mount Washburn.


Wow Factor: 3 – Nothing overly exciting about this sighting.


Danger: 6 – We were on the side of a mountain with at least a dozen bighorn sheep right near us, so it wouldn’t have been too difficult to have been knocked off the side of the mountain..


Fear Factor: 5 – I wasn’t afraid at all, but my friend was pretty scared.


Big Horned Sheep on Mt. Washburn


Description: My friend Joe and I were almost all the way up Mount Washburn, which I would say is the best hike in all of Yellowstone. We were thoroughly enjoying the trail (besides for the merciless bugs).  We made it above treeline and were greeted with fantastic views overlooking miles of wild parkland.

Then we went around a turn and found more than a dozen bighorn sheep right beside trail. They were congregating along a wide gravelly turn just below the summit.  They appeared to all be female, and only a few actually had horns.  They were all light brown in color and most looked quite thin.  It looked like they were relaxing and enjoying the views just as much as we were.  Most of them were lying down, some were standing and looking out over the cliff, and a few others watched us cautiously.

Sharing the trail with such a big group of large wild animals was awesome. They looked like a peaceful enough group to me, so I simply moved to the outside edge of the trail and calmly walked past them.  A minute or two later I noticed that Joe was nowhere in sight.  I walked back and saw he was still standing on the other side of the bighorn sheep.  He looked stressed out so I asked him what he was waiting for.  He finally walked over to me, as slowly and quietly as possible.  He then explained that he got spooked by the biggest one of the sheep and was afraid to proceed.  He claimed the bighorn sheep “eyeballed him” and snuffed in his direction.  I guess I missed that exchange.  Like me, Joe successfully passed the group without incident.  We reached the fire tower on top of the mountain a couple of minutes later and admired the best views of the day.


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