Leah’s super nearsighted, the slob, so I spot animals first. “See those white dots on the hill on our starboard, by the cliff with the big columnar joints?”
She squints. “I think so?”
“Bighorn sheep butts.”
It’s a bad day if we don’t see a bald eagle, get into an argument with a hill (they tend to disagree with us), or, now that we’re below the Chief Joseph Dam, spot a salmon thrashing its way upstream.
“Charismatic megafauna” is a term used to refer to large animals, usually mammals, that people tend to find more rel atable and interesting. You (hopefully) wanted to read our blog about bears – but probably not if we wrote about bugs instead, even though salmon eat the bugs and bears eat the salmon.
For a while, we tried to keep an animal tally, but that quickly fell by the wayside as the species list grew: black bears, coyotes, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, raccoons, eagles, owls, cormorants, gulls, pelicans, coots, grebes, herons, salmon….
According to the science teacher at the Evergreen School in Gifford, WA, this is an unusually good year for wildlife spotting due to the heavy wildfire season driving them out of their typical habitat.
A couple of weeks ago, we regaled the students of Nespelum School with what we thought was a thrilling drama between a herd of bighorn sheep and two black bears that we watched unfold after we arrived at camp one night. The students didn’t quite appreciate the saga like Leah and I did (we might have watched and only spoke in whispers for an hour).
These are the only soap operas we get on the river – is the bear going to eat the sheep? Does it just not care? Is the sheep seriously standing right next to the bear and snacking on a bush? Somehow, I think we’re doing just fine without Netflix.