California Bighorn Sheep

Ovis canadensis californiana

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Status

Blue List (Provincial)

Description

Adult Bighorn Sheep are anywhere from 70-115kg. They are grey-brown to tan all over with a white rump, short dark tail and white trim that runs along the back of all four legs. Adult males have massive curling horns and females have much smaller crescent shaped horns. Males are usually around 1m (3 ft) at the shoulder, with females smaller.

Habitat

Rocky terrain
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Forest
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Grassland
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Birghorn Sheep winter range must include rocky escape terrain for avoiding predators. Escape terrain could be cliffs, rocky slopes or dense forest patches. Their normal winter range includes low elevation bunchgrass , mature open ponderosa pine or Douglas-fir forests. and dry, open rocky areas. Their breeding range occurs on high grassy slopes and open canopy forests.

Threats

-Transfer of diseases from domestic sheep and goats (caused 90% loss of the Okanagan herd in 2002)
-Fire suppression causing forest encroachment on grasslands
-Habitat loss and fragmentation due to urban develop in low elevation shrub-grasslands
-Human disturbance and roads
-Invasive weeds competing with native grasses
-Recreational activities in rocky habitat (e.g. rock climbing, biking, hiking) during lambing season

You Can Help!

-Encourage development of fire management plans to benefit rangelands
-Protect lambing sites by limiting access and development in those areas
-Set boundaries for recreational areas and educate recreational users about bighorn sheep
-Double fencing to limit the spread of disease from demotic sheep in area which bighorn sheep presence
-Establish a healthy native plant community in shrub-grasslands
-Fence highway and roads where appropriate

Resources