Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) range from the southern Canadian Rockies to the northern tip of Mexico. Bighorn Sheep get their name from the ram's large, distinctly spiral-shaped horns that curl behind their ears and back up towards the face. Ewes sport shorter, less curved horns. A mature male's horns can weigh over 30 pounds, can measure over 30 inches in length and 15 inches in diameter.. The big horns of a male are considered a sign of rank within the herd, but males will often deliberately shorten their own horns by scraping them on the rocks if the horns impede vision.

Big Horn Sheep

Males are called Rams and can weigh between 125 - 240 pounds. Males reach full maturity by age 8 and have an average lifespan of between 9-12 years. In the fall around August or September, the "rut" begins which signals the beginning of mating season. Rams will charge at each other at speeds up to 20 mph "ramming" into each other to establish dominance. Sparring matches can last all day and rams will only spar with animals of equal size. The winner of these matches will ultimately mate with the most females and establish himself as the leader of the herd.

Females are called Ewes and weigh between 75 - 125 pounds. Females have an average lifespan of 10 - 14 years. Females live in groups of 5-15 ewes but band together during the winter often numbering over 100 total sheep. Males will travel in smaller groups of 2-7 animals and will join the female herds during the mating season. Ewes have a 6-month gestation period and give birth once a year to only one baby, called a lamb. Ewes will find a very remote, steep cliff to give birth and the lamb will stay in that area for a week or so for safety. Lambs can walk and jump just hours after birth. Some of the most amazing video has been taken of newborn lambs deftly navigating steep cliffs and ridges within hours of birth. Lambs are born all throughout the year depending on the location and climate of the herds.

Bghorn sheep tracksBighorn Sheep live on mountainsides, alpine valleys and steep cliffs. They make their home in deliberately difficult terrain for the purpose of evading predators. The main predator, besides man, is the mountain lion.

Other predators include wolves, coyotes, bobcat and even golden eagles. Bald eagles have been known to prey on Big Horn but they would be unable to take down an adult ram and tend to prey on lambs. Bighorn are opportunistic vegetarians and graze on grasses, shrubs, tundra and various other plants and brush.