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The trinomial of this species commemorates the American naturalist Edward William Nelson — The characteristics and behavior of desert bighorn sheep generally follow those of other bighorn sheep, except for adaptation to the lack of water in the desert. They can go for extended periods of time without drinking water. Populations of the desert bighorn sheep declined drastically with European colonization of the American Southwest beginning in the 16th century.
These declines were followed by a period of population stabilization ascribed to conservation measures. Desert bighorn sheep are stocky, heavy-bodied sheep , similar in size to mule deer. Due to their unique concave elastic hooves,  bighorn are able to climb the steep, rocky terrain of the desert mountains with speed and agility. They rely on their keen eyesight to detect potential predators, such as mountain lions , coyotes , and bobcats , and they use their climbing ability to escape. Both genders develop horns soon after birth, with horn growth continuing more or less throughout life.
Older rams have curling horns measuring over three feet long with more than one foot of circumference at the base.
Bighorn National Forest - West Tensleep Trailhead
The ewes' horns are much smaller and lighter and do not tend to curl. After eight years of growth, the horns of an adult ram may weigh more than 30 pounds. The rams may rub their own horns to improve their field of view.
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Desert bighorn sheep typically live for 10—20 years. The desert bighorn has become well adapted to living in the desert heat and cold and, unlike most mammals, their body temperature can safely fluctuate several degrees. During the heat of the day, they often rest in the shade of trees and caves.
Big Horn County Line (WY41)
Southern desert bighorn sheep are adapted to a desert mountain environment with little or no permanent water. Some may go without visiting water for weeks or months, sustaining their body moisture from food and from rainwater collected in temporary rock pools. After drinking water, they quickly recover from their dehydrated condition. Wildlife ecologists are just beginning to study the importance of this adaptive strategy , which has allowed small bands of desert bighorns to survive in areas too dry for many of their predators.
Desert bighorn sheep are social, forming herds of eight to 10 individuals; sometimes herds of are observed. Rams battle to determine the dominant animal, which then gains possession of the ewes.
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep ravaged by disease
Bighorn sheep live in separate ram and ewe bands most of the year. They gather during the breeding season usually July—October , but breeding may occur anytime in the desert due to suitable climatic conditions.
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Geological Survey. Archived from the original on Retrieved Feb 9, Report of the Exploration of the Yellowstone River Washington Government Printing Office Retrieved 12 June WYman Scott. Retrieved 28 January Indian Country Media Network. Retrieved 7 December Lakota Country Times. Retrieved 29 January This Day in History: June History Channel. The Last Stand ed. New Lakota Dictionary 2nd ed.
Crow Tribe of Montana, Tribal Code. National Indian Law Library. Retrieved 31 January Crow Tribal Code In each instance a search of appropriate legal references indicating the title of each parcel is needed.. Geographical features may be confirmed on digital map sources such as Google Maps or by paper map sources, such as USGS maps.
West of the Bighorns
Big Horn Mountains. Com, LLC. Retrieved 9 February State of Montana. Helena capital. Seal of Montana. Entire herds of bighorns have died out following contact with domestic sheep. Advocates for the West recently secured lasting protections for bighorn sheep on the Payette national forest in Idaho — a landmark victory that sets a precedent for protecting herds in other states. But the fight for their protection has just begun. Click here to read more about our cases involving bighorn sheep.
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