Making Science Accessible
An important goal of this site is to make our research, and the plight of bighorn sheep, understandable and of interest to nonscientists, as well as to scientists. Therefore, although this page is titled "For the Public", most of the pages on this site were written with a variety of audiences in mind. We want the information to be accessible to anyone interested in bighorn sheep, or wildlife disease, and not just to be read by other researchers. We are grateful to the Morris Animal Foundation for supporting this goal and funding this website. This page will point you to information about bighorn sheep as a species, their biology and life history, as well as about climate change and bighorns, and a little bit about early explorers and encounters.
Bighorn Sheep: An Iconic Species of Western Wildlife
For many people, bighorn sheep symbolize the rugged mountain west. Tourists visiting the west hope to see them, and hunters may pay high prices at auctions for a single tag. The money from auctioned tags provides significant funds to wildlife agencies in various states. A single bighorn tag has sold for as much as $300,000. Very few bighorn sheep are hunted, however, because most states do not have the populations to support this activity, in large part due to bighorn sheep pneumonia. Our ultimate goal is to increase the number of bighorn sheep in Hells Canyon and around the west, by reducing the number of sheep killed by pneumonia. You can read about our efforts to understand disease transmission and persistence on other pages of this site.
The National Wildlife Federation's bighorn area has general information about bighorn sheep, as well as about the other species of wild sheep in the western United States, dall sheep, and about predators of bighorn sheep.
Bighorn Sheep In History: Even Lewis and Clark Were Confused
Sometimes people confuse bighorn sheep and mountain goats, since their ranges overlap widely in the west and from a distance they can look similar. Even Lewis and Clark got them mixed up. You can read about the explorers' attempts to name these species, and some of the early artists that documented these western ungulates in the first half of the 19th century. The site also has pictures of mountain goats and bighorn sheep, as well as domestic sheep, to help you tell them apart.
Bighorn sheep have been well-represented in petroglyphs for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years throughout the American west, as well as in European cave art. This blog on rock art has several interesting discussions on the symbolism of bighorn sheep in western and southwestern rock art, as well as photographs, though we can't vouch for the accuracy of the information.