The desert at night

When walking the desert in the summer time heat one finds there is a stillness on the land. The stark blue sky without any clouds is motionless, and all the animals or deep in their burrows or hiding in what little shade they can find. In contrast to this, the night offers cooler temperatures and the moon and the stars give motion and beauty to the night sky, and the desert comes to life in the darkness of the night. It is here in the darkness that the drama of predator and prey is played out.

This series of pictures was taken in July using infrared technology, so these animals are unaware of the camera, there is no flash.  To the right of the ram you can see the two glowing eyes of a bobcat 

In this scene the ram which is primarily at daylight creature is not only willing to come to the spring to drink his fill of water at night.  He is also willing to run the bobcat off that has been following him for days. This would’ve been a very different story with a mountain lion.

Now having run the bobcat off, the ram can drink his water in peace.  And here we see this big ram has the confidence to turn his back on that pesky bobcat.

Now having run the bobcat off and gotten a good drink of water, are ram walks back out into the vast darkness of the desert. 
 
This camera has recorded this ram and bobcat going through a similar routine three or four times at this spring.  I don’t think that this bobcat was seriously hunting this ram. I think this bobcat was using this ram’s presence as a distraction.  That is to say the other animals would be aware of the ram and not the stealthy bobcat.  For some animals this could be a deadly mistake.  Only a few large rams were willing to use this spring at night all the rest of the desert bighorn sheep came during the daylight hours.
 
These photos are part of the Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep photo survey which now has approximately a half-million photos in it archive.
 
By Carlos Gallinger