Gumbo's Pic of the Day, May 12, 2014: Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, Alberta

 Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep (ram), Alberta

 

One of the great things about living close to a large wilderness ecosystem is the chance to enjoy its wildlife.  That's especially true this time of year when the valleys have thawed and are green, but the mountains and high meadows are still covered in ice and snow.  Herds of elk, deer and bighorn sheep are commonly seen beside the roads as you drive through the Rockies right now, most disappearing when the young grass comes in at higher altitudes.  

 

Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep (ram), Alberta

 

Commonly called "Bighorn Sheep", they have a very organized social structure.  Rams usually hang out in "bachelor groups", while the ewes and lambs form separate large groups.  Adult males and females tend not to mingle except during the fall mating season.  The rams have the massive impressive horns (hence their "bighorn" name), the horns weighing up to 30 pounds (14 kg).   The mating battles between rams, wherein they crack their heads and horns together at speeds up to 20 mph (30 kmph), are legendary.  The sounds of their horns smashing together echo through valleys for miles and it's a memorable sound which I've heard once in the wild during my life.

 

Rocky Mountain Bighorn herd (ewes), Alberta 

There's a large bachelor herd that lives in the Lake Minnewanka area of Banff National Park that I've often seen.  Female herds are much more common, especially in Kananaskis Country just south of Canmore.  These areas are worth driving to if you're in the Banff area and would like a chance to see them in the wild.

 

 

Rocky Mountain Bighorn herd (ewes), Alberta

Rocky Mountain Bighorn lambs, Alberta

Rocky Mountain Bighorn lamb, Alberta

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Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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