Big Horn Sheep


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Each winter we go to Jackson, WY to celebrate the arrival of the new year. One of my favorite activities is taking the grandchildren to the area of town that is behind The National Elk Refuge.  In the winter the bighorn sheep come down from the craggy mountains and will amble their way directly on the road.  They approach your vehicle and will begin to lick your car because of the salt that is caked on your automobile.  The grandchildren’s squeal with delight as the sheep come right up to our car.  We love being so close to this beautiful creature that is fairly elusive and not one that is easy to photograph.  In summer we never see the bighorn sheep so getting to see them in the winter is a real treat.

Big Horn Sheep at Jackson, WY

“Mountain sheep are members of the genus Ovis in the family Bovidae and are characterized by narrow muzzles, pointed ears, and massive curling horns in the older males (rams). Unlike true goats, Capra, they lack beards and have dished, or concave, foreheads. The largest of the mountain sheep, the argali, reaches 1.2 m (4 ft) in height at the shoulders and 160 kg (350 lb) in weight. Coat colors range from white to gray or dark brown. The coat is generally short and coarse, with only the mouflon species developing a woolly undercoat in winter. Some forms have a mane of hair down the front of the neck. Mountain sheep generally inhabit dry upland areas, from craggy mountains into semidesert. During the summer months the adult males live in groups apart from the females and their young. In late fall and early winter the males battle for possession of females, which they gather into harems of up to 12 ewes. Dominant males treat defeated and lower-ranking males as females. Gestation lasts 5 to 6 months, and from 1 to 3 lambs are born in the spring.

Members of the genus Ovis are usually classified into six species: the bighorn, O. canadensis, of the western United States and southwestern Canada; the Dall sheep, O. dalli, of Alaska and northwestern Canada; the argali, or Marco Polo sheep, O. ammon, of central Asia; the red sheep, O. orientalis, of southwestern Asia; the Laristan sheep, O. laristanica, of southern Iran; and the mouflon, O. musimon, of Sardinia and Corsica. Some classifications recognize only two species, the bighorn and the Dall sheep being classified as O. canadensis and the other four as O. ammon. Two local races of the Dall sheep are known as Fannin’s sheep and Stone’s sheep.”

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This photograph is of 2 ewes licking a salt block that has been left for them by The National Elk Refuge Management.

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This photo was taken by taking the photo by aiming the camera at the rearview window. The big horn sheep is licking our car and enjoying the left over salt that is remaining on the vehicle.



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