Submission 2024

Four sheep-like mammals stand guard atop a rocky bluff and are skylined by a vague sheet of winter-overcast sky.
Submitted by:Julien Gullo
Department:Biological Sciences

My master’s thesis is focused on identifying the behavioural responses of Stone’s sheep (Ovis dalli stonei) to hunting in northern British Columbia. Stone’s sheep are coveted by trophy hunters and, in some locations, face intense levels of hunting. My research will help identify concerns related to the conservation of this species and enhance the sustainability of sheep management.

“Ramparts” showcases a quintessential scene of the adaptive prowess of Stone’s sheep in their home environments. When faced with a threating predator, these animals will retreat to steep and rocky features for safety. There, they remain safe from wolves, cougars, bears, and even hunters, who cannot negotiate the challenging passage that cold and immutable rock will concede.

In this photo, four Stone’s sheep ewes look down on us from castle walls while we capture and process one of their band members for our research. I was touched and perplexed by the curiosity that they expressed here: even though they were afraid and likely worked up by their encounter with the capture team, they remained on-scene to see what had become of their fellow sheep.

Was your image created using Generative AI?

How was your image created?
Capture events in wildlife research are stressful and can be dangerous for the animal involved. As a rookie on the sheep capture crew, I needed to be as efficient, helpful, and unobtrusive with my participation in order to facilitate ease of workflow and quick release of the animal- this meant developing proficiency with one or two tasks at a time. Somehow, collecting fecal samples became my specialty. When my colleague pointed out the ewes watching us from above, I quickly finished my … collection… and (removing my latex glove) fished the cell phone that was awkwardly stowed in the depths of my snowsuit and took this picture. At the office, I simply cropped the photo and added the “vintage” filter in the windows photo editor. I made sure to wash my hands in between.