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Big Horn Sheep Ram – My Shot of the Day – November 18, 2013

big horn sheep ram

Given that I hopped a fence to stroll along the rim of the gorge I probably wasn’t where I was supposed to be.  I didn’t see the big horn sheep ram or any other members of the herd for about ten minutes.  Then suddenly I was among them.  At first they didn’t seem to care much that I was there, then they gathered and moved off about 20 yards and stopped to watch me.  Then they – and I – just relaxed.  They knew I wasn’t a threat and I realized I wasn’t going to get chased down head-butted into submission. One of the big horn sheep ram strolled off to my left to get a better look at me.  I ended up getting some excellent photographs of him and the herd.

The bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) is a species of sheep in North America named for its large horns. These horns can weigh up to 30 lb (14 kg), while the sheep themselves weigh up to 300 lb (140 kg). Recent genetic testing indicates three distinct subspecies ofOvis canadensis, one of which is endangered: O. c. sierrae. Sheep originally crossed to North America over the Bering land bridgefrom Siberia: the population in North America peaked in the millions, and the bighorn sheep entered into the mythology of Native Americans. By 1900, the population had crashed to several thousand. Conservation efforts (in part by the Boy Scouts) have restored the population.

Bighorn’s are native to this area of New Mexico.  You can see them in the ancient petroglyphs in the bottom, hear the river.  The gorge herd was hunted out 70-80 years ago however.  In 2007…

Crews with the state Department of Game and Fish, the U.S. Forest Service and Taos Pueblo used drop nets baited with salt blocks to capture 25 sheep in the Pecos Wilderness early Saturday.

The animals were examined, given shots, outfitted with radio collars and trucked to the release site along the gorge just south of Taos. It marked the first time Rocky Mountain bighorn have been released on land managed by the BLM.

The sheep were let go midway along the 82-mile gorge, a sliver carved into layers of basalt by the Rio Grande, the nation’s third-longest river.

DesGeorges said the goal is for the transplants to augment a herd released on Taos Pueblo land last year. That group — 23 sheep plus a dozen lambs from the spring — has been moving between pueblo land and BLM land along the gorge.

The reintroduction has been very successful. Here is a shot I got of another big horn sheep ram in 2011 about 10 miles south of the gorge bridge.  I stayed with them about an hour and then I think we just all got bored of one another. Not to mention I was cold. The wind was bitter. The bighorns moved off north and I turned around, my morning walk trucated, hopped that fence and went to find some coffee.

big horn sheep ram

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big horn sheep ram

 

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