The Sheep Of North America

Four species of sheep inhabit North America; the Rocky Mountain bighorn, desert bighorn, and Dall and Stone sheep. Learn more about them, and their habitat here.

Sheep inhabit remote and primarily mountainous areas from Alaska and Northwestern Canada, through the western provinces and states, down into Old Mexico. Like other sheep, our wild sheep are primarily grazers, preferring grass and forbs as forage most of the year, although in winter they will browse on shrubs if snow covers up the preferred foods.

All sheep possess superb eyesight, and have an excellent sense of smell. They don’t rely heavily on their ears to warn them of danger, perhaps because rocks tumble and roll a lot in their steep, unstable habitat. Wild sheep may not be the most wary of North American big game, but they can be very difficult to hunt because they inhabit such remote, tough and broken terrain. Plus, it’s often hard to find an old ram with truly oversized but unbroken horns, if you’re after a trophy.

For my money, wild sheep are among the most beautiful of North American game animals, with well - muscled bodies that vary from lean to stocky, and gorgeous, curling horns that continue to grow throughout their lifetime. Narrow growth rings on the horns mark each winter of a ram’s life; if you’re fortunate enough to kill a sheep, just count these rings to see how old he is! Any sheep of any variety is considered a monster if his horns measure more than 40 inches around the curl.

A Rocky Mountain bighorn will weigh anywhere from 160 to 300 pounds. His horns are massive, and handsome in contrast to his dark coat. A desert bighorn is lankier and lighter, weighing maybe 130 to 200 pounds and with a lighter coat; an adult ram’s horns are big and thick too, and look almost over - sized compared to his smaller body.

Dall and Stone sheep are known as the thinhorn sheep. Dall sheep are pure white, and a good ram will weigh from 180 to 200 pounds; Dall sheep live in alpine grasslands above treeline, primarily in Alaska and the Yukon. Stone sheep vary in color, and you might see a gray, brown, white or even black animal. A good Stone sheep ram will be bigger than a Dall sheep ram - up to 250 pounds on the high end - and will be found in more steep, remote and isolated areas of the Yukon or British Columbia.

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