Illegal hunting, introduced diseases, competition from livestock and habitat loss all threaten bighorn sheep. Hunting for trophies is especially damaging because it often takes out dominant, breeding males. 

Conservation Status

Source: IUCN

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You can find this animal in
Canadian Wilds

Learning Centre

In spite of their massive bulk and heavy horns, bighorn sheep are good swimmers.

Important Facts

What a headache

Male bighorn sheep are built for battle. They have double-layered skulls, with extra bones and muscles to protect their brains from massive blows during head-to-head combat over the right to mate. Males can smash into their opponents at speeds of up to 32 kilometres per hour (20 miles per hour) and battles can last over 25 hours, with about five clashes an hour until one of the males gives up the fight.


Happy herds

Bighorn sheep live in herds separated by gender. Males live in bachelor groups while females live in herds with their lambs – only coming together to mate in the fall. Lambs are born in the spring on high ledges. They can walk soon after birth and can follow their moms over rocky terrain at just a week old.
Babies are called lambs.


Conservation connections

Bighorn sheep trophies are sought for their curly horns. There is legal hunting for bighorns in some areas, but populations are protected by law in national and provincial parks across Canada. Sadly, animals in protected areas are vulnerable to poaching because they are used to humans and easy to approach.

At a Glance

Scientific Name

Ovis canadensis

Weight

53 – 127 kg (117 – 280 lb)

Height

1.5 – 1.8 m (4.9 – 5.9 ft) [length]

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Habitat

Alpine meadows, grassy mountain slopes and foothills of western Canada and the United States.

Diet

Herbivore. Bighorn sheep graze throughout the day on grasses and herbs.