Bighorn sheep are now in the Hole of Jackson, WY!!
Bighorn Sheep are the largest wild sheep in North America. Rams can weigh over 300 lbs, ewes up to 150 lbs and each have 5x vision. Bighorns are almost always found on or near high rocky terrain. They are herbivores and grazers. Both sexes grow “horns”, which are different than “antlers”. Sheep, bison, and antelope grow and keep horns for their entire lives (like domestic cattle). The deer family (elk, whitetail, mule deer and moose) grow antlers, but drop and regrow them every year.
From just 20 miles north, bighorns travel to parts of the National Elk Refuge here in Jackson and spend the winter.
The annual migration of Bighorn Sheep is now underway. First, the ewes and “kids” (1 yr old lambs) arrived. Now, the bigger rams have arrived. Most ages and genders will be here mid-December, when their numbers will near 200, in a 5-10 mile area.
This time of year marks the start of their mating ritual. Rams size up competing males. Genital kicking and fierce head-butting among rams to determine hierarchy occur now.
During winter, sheep feed on lichen and exposed grasses. Summertime food sources include grasses and forbs. Sheep spend their nights on elevated/ rocky terrain to avoid predators. Their bodies are built to excel in a high-rocky environment. Once the sun is high in the sky, they can be seen in lower sagebrush environs…..where I’ve witnessed them at very close range.
In April, all sheep leave the valley and migrate to higher elevations to the north.
The Ram photo above represents an example of a survival means for Native Americans here. The Sheepeater band of Shoshone would cure bighorn horns in hot mineral springs in order to make them pliable. Then, the horns were fashioned into an archery bow for hunting game. No glue back then! The Natives used every part of the animal to make bow strings and glue. Obsidian, razor-sharp and glass-like rock, was used in all facets of the bow-making process. These bows were highly-valued trading items in the 1800s and allegedly were powerful enough to take a bison down.