The Lake Mead National Recreation Area covers a vast amount of land. The boundaries of this park cover the Virgin River Basin, Lake Mead and Lake Mojave in the Nevada-Arizona section of the Colorado River. The rivers and lakes are surrounded by desert terrain, mesa bluffs and mountains, so this recreation area is an ideal spot for observing the local wildlife.
Where there is water, there is wildlife! This saying definitely holds true out in the Mojave Desert, where water is as precious as gold. On any given day, wild animals can be spotted heading back and forth to a water source, so starting the search near where the water is located is the best way to go. At Lake Mead, Northshore Road runs between the mountains and the lake water, so just taking a leisurely cruise on this paved road will yield good wildlife viewing results. Based upon observations, the Bighorn Sheep tend to head to the water before sunrise, then they start heading back uphill to the mountains shortly after dawn. Inevitably, the Bighorn have to cross the road at some point and this is when cruising along at a casual pace can be rewarding.
Bighorn nearly always travel in groups. The groups of the alpha male rams tend to be smaller than groups of mares and foals, so they are more difficult to spot. The prized rams with full horns seem to travel in groups of 3 to 10, while a group of mares and young Bighorn Sheep may easily exceed 25. Bighorn are also creatures of habit, because they will follow the same trail to a water source, time and time again. Bighorn actually pass the inherent knowledge of these trails from one generation to the next, so it pays to note where these animals have been previously spotted.
When spotted as a group, the Bighorn will pause whatever they are doing and they will stare at the potential threat. If a viewer looks like a minimal threat, the Bighorn will exit the scene at ease, but if they are spooked, a viewer will barely have time to raise the camera because these big animals can really move very fast over rough terrain.
Where there is a water source, there will be everything that a coyote needs too. The coyotes roam the wilderness areas surrounding Lake Mead on a regular basis, but even the bold ones pose little harm. Coyotes in this region depend upon a steady diet of rock squirrels, ground nesting birds and mice, which there are plenty of in this heavily eroded rock outcrop region. Most of the coyotes around Lake Mead tend to keep their distance, but if they sense that there is no threat they can be a little bolder. Coyotes are experts at judging what they can get away with and they will boldly walk through an occupied camp looking for an opportunity to steal food. Do not expect them to pause for the camera for an extended time, because these animals are always on the move.
Spotting Bighorn Sheep near the water in the mornings and listening to coyotes sing at sunset is how a typical day can go at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Keeping a good camera handy is the best way to take the memories home and a telephoto lens will make the closeup shots even better. As always, wildlife spotting opportunities usually happen when least expected, so be ready for some thrilling moments!
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