Close Encounters of the Herd Kind

How do you know it’s spring in Dubois WY? You see neighbors that don’t usually turn up nearby.

Sheep060816_4How do you know it’s spring in Dubois?

The animal neighbors turn up nearby, joining the livestock to sample the new grass.

Later on, most of them will vanish up-mountain. But for now, we get to enjoy their company.

Many of the creatures we are delighted to see are quite young. It’s that time of year too.

Last week, returning from Fort Washakie, I passed a herd of 17 bighorn sheep right beside the highway, just west of the red rocks.

This was a red-letter day for me. In nearly a decade here, I’ve only seen these wild sheep once or twice, and then only one or two at a time.

ISheep060816_3t was also troubling, because they were within feet of the highway. I pulled off to the shoulder and tried to motion passing cars to slow down.

When it was safe, I pulled a U-turn, got out of the car, and herded the sheep over the fence by approaching them. They say it’s not possible to herd bighorn sheep. Maybe I’m just a really scary person.

Of course I knew that when I continued on toward Dubois, they would leap back over the fence and keep grazing.

Calves2Last Thursday, heading toward town for a meeting, I was startled to see several calves wandering toward the highway near town, spilling out from a road that led into one of the fields. Slowing, I could see that the gate had been left ajar.

Again I pulled a U-turn, and again I got out and shooed the creatures back to the safe side of the fence. This time, after closing the gate, I could be certain I’d left them safe.

Two evenings ago, my husband called me to the window to watch two eagles and another large bird, perhaps a hawk, hovering over the aspens. Then he gasped as one of the eagles took a plunge toward the treetops.

BeaverTreesThe other, considerably smaller, bird was attacking the eagles repeatedly in mid-flight. Eventually the eagles  descended into the land beneath the grove. We wonder whether they found the hawk’s nest, or just gave up.

Yesterday on a hike in Long Creek Valley, we never saw any beavers. But we certainly saw what they had been up to.

As we stood contemplating the perfection of this lumber work, wondering what led the animals to stop midway, one of us turned around and spied the work in progress. What an engineering feat!

Sad to think, as someone remarked, that the Game & Fish people are sure to disassemble this. How lucky we were to find it!


A few weeks ago, we saw hundreds of elk loitering uphill from our house, easily visible, en route up the Dunoir Valley back toward Yellowstone, thick as aphids on a leaf.

I don’t have a picture of that. I just couldn’t tear my eyes away.



Author: LivingDubois

I am a retired science journalist, devoted to enjoying and recording the many pleasures of life in the Wyoming's Upper Wind River Valley.

2 thoughts on “Close Encounters of the Herd Kind”

  1. You may have done a good deed in chasing the calves in and closing the gate, there is however, another possibility. In most of the cattle country I have ridden there is a unwritten law, “If the gate is open, leave it open. If it’s closed leave it closed.” Let’s hope you didn’t close a gate someone was trying to push the calves through.

    1. Thanks for the comment, June! I was unaware of that unwritten law and will follow it henceforth when hiking in the back and beyond.

      However, this wasn’t the back and beyond. The gate in question opens directly onto US Highway 26/287, right at the western edge of town where traffic begins to speed up from 45 mph to (now) 70 mph. The calves were wandering directly onto the highway, and there were no human beings around.

      What’s more, the rancher has built an underpass under the highway that allows cattle to go safely from one side of the road to the other at will. So I’m pretty sure I did the right thing in this case.

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