15692599673_25e0a14308_b

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Artiodactyla
  • Family: Bovidae
  • Genus: Ovis
  • Species: Ovis canadensis
  • Height: 5-6 Feet
  • Weight:   117-279 lbs
  • Lifespan:  6-15 Years

 

  • Bighorn males, called rams, are famous for their large curled horns.  These impressive growths are a symbol of status and a weapon used in epic battles across the Rocky Mountains.  These horn clashing matches can last hours until one male backs down and walks away.  The animal’s thick, bony skull usually prevents serious injury.
  • As relatives of goats, they have balance-aiding split hooves and rough hoof bottoms for natural grip.  These attributes, along with keen vision, help them move easily about rocky, rugged mountain terrain.
  • Lambs are born each spring on high, secluded ledges protected from bighorn predators such as wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions.
  • Hunting, loss of food from livestock grazing, and disease from domestic livestock have devastated bighorn sheep populations.  Loss of habitat from development is an increasing threat.  At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were between 1.5 million to two million bighorn sheep in North America.  Today, there are fewer than 70,000.
  • Usually found in single sex herds of around 10 animals. In winters, mixed herds of 100 animals may form.
  • A male bighorn sheep’s horns can weight as much as 30 pounds.  In older (7-8 year old) males the horns may begin a second curl, with a spread of 33 inches.
  • In winter, bighorn herds move to lower-elevation mountain pastures.  They eat grass, seeds, and plants, and regurgitate their food to chew it as cud before swallowing it for final digestion.

 

Conservation Status

  • Several populations may be threatened with eventual extinction.  Bighorn numbers are only one-tenth the population that existed when western settlers first began exploiting the Rockies.
  • Their main threats are unregulated or illegal hunting, introduced diseases, competition from livestock, and continual human encroachment on their habitat. (Animal Diversity website)