Fall is a great season for desert bighorn

It has been a wonderful season for Desert Bighorn Sheep sightings here at Colorado National Monument. Mixed herds and groups of half-grown lambs graze calmly in the environs of Fruita Canyon, preferring Balanced Rock and Dead Man’s Curve for choice vegetation. Seldom seen are the bachelor bands that gather through the winter and frequent No Thoroughfare Canyon. In October and November the herd is social, dating, mating.

Often illusive and mystifying, some light is shed on the habits of these desert mammals by a reading of Ellen Meloy’s most excellent book, “Eating Stone.”

From Meloy’s observation, here are some interesting tidbits about our specific variety of sheep.

Cultural: place-faithful to a fault

Scientific: It takes180 days to gestate a lamb

Physical appearance: While most desert bighorns are tan to light gray…I have seen a few young bighorns darken to brown as they matured…

Gastronomic: can break open and eat a spiky-bodied barrel cactus

Prey: mountain lions are exquisitely designed to kill ungulate prey…quite successfully bighorn sheep elude mountain lions due to their acute vision and the pooled vigilance of a large herd.

Want to know more? Contemporary naturalist and natural history writer, Ellen Meloy weaves her daily life and philosophy into the narrative as she chronicles following and observing desert bighorn for a year. You can pick up a copy of “Eating Stone,” at the CNMA bookstore at Colorado National Monument or order online rimrockshop.com.

Eating Stone, by Ellen Meloy

Eating Stone, by Ellen Meloy