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Big Horn Sheep

A quick question about the obvious: how did bighorn sheep get their name? That's right, because they have big horns. In fact, the males (known as rams) are known for their massive curled horn—the older the male, the more length, circumference and "curl" the horns will have. During the rut (mating season), the males literally become battering rams; they face off in duels for supremacy by battering their horns together in violent collisions. The thunderous echoes of these duels crackle through high mountain valleys during the rut. Female bighorn sheep (called ewes) also have horns, but the horns aren't nearly as large. And of course, the females see no need to batter themselves silly in duels. Bighorn sheep are right at home in Montana's rugged mountains. Their gray-brown coats help them to blend into the mountainside, but their white rumps stick out like, well, like white rumps.

Bighorn Sheep
Ovis canadensis

Bighorn sheep feed on grasses and shrubs in the high mountain ranges, and it is not uncommon to see them grazing in meadows or hanging out on rocky cliffs. They seem to be at home in most any terrain. Of all the big game species, they are among the most social. They band together in herds, although males tend to stay separate from the females and young except during breeding season. Unfortunately, because of their high mountain habitat, they suffer from the effects of harsh winter weather where only the heartiest survive.

Surprisingly, one of the best viewing sites is also one of the easiest to find. The aptly-named Kookoosint Sheep Viewing Area is located on Highway 200 just outside of Thompson Falls, and the best time of the year for watching is between October and May. At any given time, you may see some 70 sheep roaming this area.

Big Horn Sheep Map