With the changing of the seasons comes the rituals of nature. Bighorn sheep have their own set of rituals and traditions. One of the most important traditions has to be deciding which ram gets to lead the herd. Those horns aren’t just for decoration, after all. Weighing up to 30 lbs, their horns are their most valuable tool and weapon.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Bighorn Sheep Ram Encounter posted a great video. Two rams were going at each other in an attempt to establish their dominance. Not only do the large animals use their horns, but they also slam their bodies into each other as well. Running at high speeds, these fights can take hours to be settled.
In a herd of bighorn sheep, there are multiple rams. They tend to live in large herds and these displays of dominance are common heading into the fall. When a ram is in rutting season, hormones are running high. These males are relentless when establishing themselves as the top of the herd. It is not a situation one wants to find themselves in the middle of.
While the ram has a skull developed for butting and, well, ramming, the human body does not. Colorado Parks and Wildlife are persistent about staying your distance.
“Observe animals from a safe distance – safe for you and safe for the animals,” the department said, “You can get a close-up view by using binoculars, a spotting scope, or a camera with a telephoto lens.” That is especially important with such protected species as the bighorn sheep. Wildlife officials have been working on improving the situation of the species in Colorado. Over 7,000 sheep reside in the state today.
Bighorn Sheep on the Comeback
All throughout the western United States, efforts to bring bighorn sheep populations back are underway. There are a number of reasons why that is. Through conservation efforts as well as other programs. Relocating sheep, providing sanctuaries, and yes, allowing limited hunting of the species. Many times hunting programs help fund the conservation efforts for wildlife.
One state that has been putting a lot of effort into allowing the species to thrive, is North Dakota. In fact, the state has seen some great numbers recently in support of its programs. Last year, in 2020, North Dakota had a record number of applications for their limited hunting permits. That meant an influx of money and interest that has allowed their program to succeed.
Keeping populations at adequate numbers is hard work. There are so many factors that wildlife officials can only hope to plan for. However, not everything in nature is easy. About seven years ago, a bacterial pneumonia outbreak killed three dozen sheep in North Dakota. That hurt the numbers drastically. The Game and Fish Department had to react fast, and thankfully the issue was put under control.