By Greg Wilson
Wildlife artist and photographer
Wild mountain goats can often be seen from the park-and-ride lot in the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, providing a unique opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts, photographers and artists to view these animals.
Late winter and early spring are usually the best times to see goats. Just park your car and look on the north or south sides of the canyon. I’ve seen as many as 100 animals during March. On the south side of the canyon you can spot them straight across and all the way to the top of the canyon; on the north side you may get a kink in your neck from looking almost straight up to find them. Morning hours seem to be the best time but I’ve seen them at all times of the day. All you need is a good set of field glasses or a spotting scope.
I do not recommend going up after these animals because they are skittish and because they hang out on rocky cliff faces that are hazardous. If you want to photograph them, plan on spending a full day and bring a tripod and a good telephoto lens. You’ll need lots of patience.
I photograph animals and then use the photos as the basis for wildlife paintings. When I go after the goats I let them see me and get used to me at a distance. That way I can get a feeling about their reaction to my presence. Over a long period of time I slowly approach the goats, allowing them to see me, taking care not to make them nervous. If they appear nervous about my presence I back off and try again on another day. I do not want to spook them and make them waste the energy then need to survive, or make them run and possibly fall off the ledges they roam.
Every now and then the animals will accept my presence and I am able to move in close enough for good photography (abut 40 yards). Sometimes when I’m just sitting there sketching and photographing, they will get curious and approach me and almost seem to poise for me.
Studying the animals in their environment has become a way of life for me. These types of experiences are rewarding and irreplaceable. I use the photos and sketches to record what I’ve experienced. When I get home to my studio I use the photos and sketches to put paintings together that will, hopefully, share with others the emotional experience of being with the animals in their home. We must remember this is their home and treat it as if it were our own.
About the Author: Greg’s art ork can be seen at: The Coeur d’Alene Galleries in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Mountaintrails Galleries in Park City; Mountaintrails Galleries in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Mountaintrails Galleries in Santa Fe, New Mexico; and the Corbett Gallery in Big Fork, Montana.