Measurement: Size: 170 cm/100 cm at the shoulders Weight: 125-150 kg
Description: This very common ungulate has a light brown coat and white rump with a very short tail. The horns of the female are short and goat-like, often causing them to be mistaken for the less common mountain goat. Only rams grow the full curl horns for which this animal gets its name. Trophy rams have horns that make a full curl, continuing past they eye. It takes 7 or 8 years to reach this impressive stage and with pressure from hunting outside of parks, such animals are rare outside of protected areas.
Common throughout both the Canadian and American Rockies.
Peak Viewing Sites
In Banff National Park, the Minnewanka Loop and Bow Valley Parkway offer excellent viewing opportunities. Also, the Icefields Parkway, traversing Banff and Jasper National Parks, often allows close viewing.
Bighorn sheep are browsers, relying on a variety of grasses and plants for their sustenance. Grasses form the bulk of their diet, but they will also feed upon numerous other forbs and flowers. They are also fond of mineral licks which help them to replace minerals lost during their summer molt.
Their major predators include wolves and cougars. Coyotes take a few and lynx and eagles may try for an unattended lamb.
The autumn rut takes place in late October and lasts through November. During the rut, the rams battle for the right to collect a harem of ewes. Much of the male challenges are a combination of show and bluff. When this doesn't work, two rams will face each other, rear up onto their hind legs, and then come down head-on, smashing their horns together. The sound of these impacts can be heard for more than a kilometre, reverberating like a gunshot.
Like elk, the energy expended during the fall rut leaves the rams in poor winter condition, often resulting in a greater mortality amongst dominant rams.
Notes: Bighorn sheep are a constant sight along busy mountain roads. They may be easy to approach, leading visitors to move in for a better photograph. Please keep your distance, and keep highway speeds down to reduce animal impacts.