Tuesday, November 20, 2012
ABC Wednesday: S is for Sheep
A bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. We encountered him a couple of times lying by the side of the road. He didn't seem in any pain or discomfort and he still was alert and able to move, so he was probably just old.
Bighorn sheep had almost been extinct, with only a couple of thousand animals left in the 1930s. Today, there is a healthy population, especially in protected areas like national parks. Habitat destruction remains a problem, though.
The horns, of course, are their most striking feature and the males use them to do battle in late autumn over females.
Our ram probably fought many such fights and his horns still carry the traces. Females have much smaller horns, but with males, they can weigh up to 14 kilos, which is about as much as the whole sheep's skeleton.
Bighorn sheep are rather shy and that's why, despite their growing numbers, many people never get to see them. I also learned that there's another North American sheep species called Thinhorn Sheep, to be found in Alaska and over much of Canada.
See what else S stands for with ABC Wednesday
Bighorn Sheep in the Ruby Mountains