When writing a blog entitled, "The Rarest Wild Animal You Will Ever See A Photograph Of," it pays to be entirely sure of the facts. An albino anything is a rare beast and they don't survive in nature for very long; lacking in pigmentation does have it's health concerns. Just finding an albino wild animal is "one-in-a-million." In this 21st century self-centered culture anything of value is quickly taken, and a snow-white wild animal is definitely an easy target.
It has been a decade since I'd first heard rumors about an albino Bighorn Sheep in and around the Wind River Canyon where I live. While photographing Bighorn Sheep one afternoon, a retired game warden, who had been involved with their reintroduction in 1995, said he'd heard about one that had been born nearby. He wondered if I'd seen this albino Bighorn Sheep....I hadn't. Then one day, there he was with the other Rams he ran with!
This group of Rams came and went with the wind, and if I searched for them they seemed invisible. I like to tell people that, "You don't find Bighorn Sheep in the Wind River Canyon, they find you!" When they would make an appearance I'd dash out the door with a camera of some kind, and spend as much time as I was able----it was a crazy thrill!
In the middle-of-the-night, after an especially exciting cession with this albino Ram, I had a dream. It was so vivid that it still haunts me to this very day. This Albino Bighorn Sheep was to be called "Snowflake." I went to visit a wise Shoshone Indian I knew for answers.
This American Indian listened to my dream and saw the photographs I'd already taken of this very rare Bighorn Ram. His sage advice was indeed wise, he said to me, "Don't question this gift and where it came from; accept this dream as a gift." This Albino Bighorn Sheep was known thereafter as "Snowflake."
One day I received an email from an acquaintance, and I knew from the link what it was. A well know Wyoming newspaper had a photo of the woman that shot and killed Snowflake, his bloody body draped across her lap! I didn't take the news very well; I cried like a child. I'd spent more time with this Albino Bighorn Sheep and his friends then I'd spent with some family members. And now he was dead, and I had the only professional photographs ever taken of Snowflake the Albino Bighorn Sheep.
It has been just over three years since Snowflake was hunted down. I still don't understand how a person could kill a Unicorn. This is the only Albino Bighorn Sheep (take notice of his pink nose and hooves) any of us will ever see in our lives. It was a very rare privilege to have spent so much time with such a unique wild animal.
All photographs and wildlife stories are produced by Michael John Balog, resident of the Wind River Canyon in Wyoming, and are protected under international copyright laws.
*Thank you for indulging me with your time.