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Wildlife Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

Wildlife Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep (Animals)

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Tags: sheep (3 pics)

Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) is a species of sheep in North America with large horns. The horns can weigh up to 30 pounds (14 kg), while the sheep themselves weigh up to 300 pounds (140 kg). Recent genetic testing indicates that there are three distinct subspecies of Ovis canadensis, one of which is endangered: Ovis canadensis sierrae.

The bighorn sheep originally crossed over the Bering land bridge from Siberia: the population in North America peaked in the millions, and the bighorn sheep entered into the mythology of Native Americans. However, by 1900 (119 years ago) the population had crashed to several thousand. Conservation efforts (in part, by the Boy Scouts) have restored the population.

In culture

Bighorn Sheep were amongst the most admired animals of the Apsaalooka, or Crow, people, and what is today called the Bighorn Mountain Range was central to the Apsaalooka tribal lands. In the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area book, storyteller Old Coyote describes a legend related to the Bighorn Sheep. A man possessed by evil spirits attempts to kill his heir by pushing the young man over a cliff, but the victim is saved by getting caught in trees. Rescued by Bighorn sheep, the man takes the name of their leader, Big Metal. The other sheep grant him power, wisdom, sharp eyes, sure footedness, keen ears, great strength, and a strong heart. Big Metal returns to his people with the message that the Apsaalooka people will survive only so long as the river winding out of the mountains is known as the Bighorn River.

Bighorn Sheep are hunted for their meat and horns, which are used in ceremonies, as food, and as hunting trophies. They also serve as a source of eco-tourism, as tourists come to see the famed Bighorn Sheep in their native habitat.

The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep is the provincial mammal of Alberta and the state animal of Colorado and as such is incorporated into the symbol for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Bighorn Sheep were once known by the scientific identification argali or argalia due to assumption that they were the same animal as the Asiatic Argali (Ovis ammon). Lewis and Clark recorded numerous sightings of Ovis canadensis in the journals of their exploration--sometimes using the name Argalia. In addition, they recorded the use of bighorn sheep by the Shoshone in making bows. William Clark's Track Map produced after the expedition in 1814 (205 years ago) indicates a tributary of the Yellowstone River named Argalia Creek and a tributary of the Missouri River named Argalia River, both in what is today Montana. Neither of these tributaries retained these names however. The Bighorn River another tributary of the Yellowstone, and its tributary stream the Little Bighorn River indicated on Clark's map did retain their names, the latter being the namesake of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.


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