About Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn Sheep are ungulates. They are currently not endangered, with an estimated population of around 15,500 sheep in Canada and more than 42,000 in the USA .
Bighorn Sheep have light brown to grayish or dark brown fur. They also have a white rump and a white stripe that runs down the back of all four legs. The males have large, curved horns that can weigh up to 30 lbs ! The females also have horns, however, these are much smaller.
The Canadian Rockies are home to Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. They can be found in grassy mountain slopes, alpine meadows, or foothill areas near rocky cliffs and bluffs .
Bighorn Sheep are ruminants, meaning that they chew the cud regurgitated from its rumen. During the Summer, they eat grasses; in the Winter, when grass is difficult to find, their diet consists of more woody plants such as sage and willow. Because Bighorn Sheep are ruminants, they are able to rapidly eat large portions of food before retreating to cliffs or ledges where they can rechew and digest their food .
The average lifespan of a Bighorn Sheep is 6 to 15 years . Breeding occurs in the Fall, and lambs are born in the Spring. The gestation period is around 175 days . Lambs can walk within hours after birth. They continue to nurse up to 6 months.
Male Bighorn Sheep use their horns to compete for ewes in butting contests. During a butting contest, males can charge each other with speeds of more than 20 mph. Their battles may last as long as 24 hours ! During most of the year the females and young live in herds of about 10 sheep. The males live in bachelor herds. Once mating season arrives, herds gather together and form groups as large as 100 sheep.