BIGHORN SHEEP

April 16, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

I was going through my slides selecting images for an artist friend in Wyoming.  I came upon a selection of images of Bighorn Sheep which I haven't viewed in years.  During editing it brought back a lot of memories. Twenty five to thirty years ago on any given day I could drive within 40 minutes and find a group of Bighorns to photograph. 

Along Fall River road going into Rocky Mountain National Park a large group of around 135 sheep resided there.  I would climb up the mountain side and sit on a rock and would be surrounded by them. They never seemed to mind that I was there and would approach within a close proximity.  It was a great time observing there behavioral patterns and learning more about them, the view across the valley was spectacular.   They would browse over the slopes and nibble on mountain plants and scan the valley below. At times they would lay down and chew their cuds and fall asleep close by.

One day I'll always remember I was climbing up the mountain side in the Fall during the rut.  I was boosting myself up over a large rock outcropping when a ram chasing a ewe came to a skidding halt throwing fragments of rock just three feet or so from my chest  We were looking eye to eye before he turned and took off.  Wow! you talk about a rush I could feel my heart pounding through my chest.

A sad thing happened in the early 1990's.  It was in the winter and I went up to photograph the sheep in snowy conditions.  To my amazement several of the sheep were coughing.  I contacted a ranger friend and he said it was a sign of pneumonia setting in.  The following spring the herd had been reduced from pneumonia deaths  from 100+ to around 35-40.  This is a reason why Bighorns are caught and relocated from healthy herds and moved to other vacant sheep habitats in Colorado.  That way when a disease hits a herd it doesn't wipe out the entire Bighorn population.

INTERESTING FACTS:

Lifespan:  Males (Rams) 9-12 years   Females (Ewes) 10-14 years

Weight:   Males  127-316  Females  75-188 pounds

Length:   Males  5-6 feet  Females are smaller

Horn size:  Males  30" length  15" in circumference  Females: Short horns with little curvature.

                 Average male horn weight 30 lbs.

Mating season:  Nov/Dec  The males butt heads to establish dominance and mating rights.  They clash at about  

                        20 MPH and sound as if a rifle is discharged.  Its an amazing thing to witness.

 

Spring is certainly upon us.  It seems as if each season passes quicker.  Soon we will be preparing for our annual trip to Grand Teton National Park. Sightings have already been reported of Grizzly bears coming out of hibernation.  So far weather conditions seem to indicate it may be a good wildflower season this year.

Included are a few images of Bighorn Sheep.  Hope you enjoy them.

Regards,

Don

 

 

 

 

   

 


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