Facts About Wild Sheep

The Desert Bighorn Sheep (ovis canadensis nelsoni) is a subspecies of Bighorn Sheep that occurs in the desert Southwest regions of the United States and in the northern regions of Mexico. The trinomial of this species commemorates the American naturalist Edward William Nelson. The characteristics and behavior of Desert Bighorn Sheep generally follow those of other Bighorn Sheep, except for adaptation to the lack of water in the desert. Desert Bighorn Sheep can go for extended periods of time without drinking water.

Bighorn Sheep (ovis canadensis) is a species of sheep in North America and Siberia with large horns. The horns can weigh up to 30 pounds, while the sheep themselves weigh up to 500 pounds. Recent genetic testing indicates that there are three distinct subspecies of ovis canadensis, one of which is endangered: ovis canadensis sierrae. The Bighorn Sheep originally crossed over the Bering land bridge from Siberia. Its population in North America peaked in the millions, and the Bighorn Sheep entered into the mythology of Native Americans. However, the population crashed by 1900 down to several thousand. Conservation efforts (in part, by the Boy Scouts) have restored the population.

Dall Sheep (ovis dalli dalli) inhabit the mountain ranges of Alaska. Dall Sheep are found in relatively dry country and frequent a special combination of open alpine ridges, meadows, and steep slopes with extremely rugged “escape terrain” in the immediate vicinity. They use the ridges, meadows, and steep slopes for feeding and resting. When danger approaches they flee to the rocks and crags to elude pursuers. They are generally high country animals, but sometimes occur in rocky gorges below timberline in Alaska.

Stone Sheep (ovis dalli stone) are 36 to 42 inches in height and at maturity weigh between 125 and 200 pounds. Rams and ewes both grow horns throughout their lives, but those of the ewe are less curved, more slender and shorter (about 10 inches long) than the ram’s. The horns of a ram stop growing each Fall, resulting in a grooved rest line which, like tree rings, can be used to determine the age of the ram. Stone Sheep are identifiable by their dark, blue-black coloring and stubby white tail. Their underneath is a gray fleece, contrasting to brownish gray on back, while the color on their face and legs is darker.