Open every day of the year
Winter Hours (Nov 2 – February 28)
Admissions Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Grounds close at 5 p.m.
Ages 12-64: $13
Ages 65+: $11
Ages 3-11: $9
2 and Under: Free
2016 Free Days: 2/18, 11/4, 11/7, 11/17
Found in the Rocky Mountains from southern Canada to Colorado
Alpine meadows and foothills near rocky cliffs at elevations ranging from 7,000 to 10,000 feet.
What Does It Eat?
In the wild: In summer they eat grasses including horsetail, bluegrass, June grass, needle grass and wheat grass. In winter they eat woody items such as willow, alder and some evergreens.
At the zoo: Hay, grain and vitamin supplements.
What Eats It?
Wolves, mountain lions, coyotes and eagles prey on this species.
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are social animals that live in herds. In spring and summer, males form bands of up to 10 individuals led by a dominant ram. Females and young form separate herds and generally graze away from the males. In winter, larger mixed herds form consisting of up to 100 males, females and young.
Females, called “ewes,” mature at about two and a half years of age. During the fall rutting season, males have head butting contests to determine dominance and breeding rights. Because of the need to establish dominance, males rarely breed before the age of six. After a gestation of about 180 days, females give birth to a single lamb; twins are rare. Lambs are born with horn buds, can stand almost immediately and can run and climb within a day or two. Lambs are weaned at four to six months and weigh about 75 pounds (34 kg) as winter begins. Bighorn sheep live an average of eight years, but can live up to 16-18 years.
Adult Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep rams have massive horns that can weigh as much as 50 pounds (22 kg). During the fall rut, or mating season, rams clash horns to establish dominance and breeding rights. Rearing up on their hind legs, opposing rams charge full speed toward each other and butt heads using their horns as battering rams. Although they may hit with considerable force, the animals are seldom hurt because the skull and massive neck muscles absorb the force of the blow. The sound of clashing horns can be heard a mile away.
The hooves of the bighorn sheep have a hard outside rim used for digging into the ground or cutting into snow or ice. The inside of the hoof is soft and spongy (like the bottom of a tennis shoe) to aid in traction, making these sheep excellent climbers and jumpers. They have split hooves that pinch and hold rocks (somewhat like clothespins) and the claws higher up on the foot act like brakes if the sheep starts to slide on loose rock or slippery surfaces.
Bighorn sheep are agile climbers that can climb up steep rocky slopes with ease. They can jump seven feet (2 m) across wide crevices in their rugged habitat and can even turn in mid-air landing on small ledges of rock. Even young lambs can scamper across rocky terrain. Their climbing ability helps bighorn sheep escape predators including mountain lions and coyotes.
IUCN Status: Lower Risk-Conservation Dependent.
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are not currently endangered. Threats to bighorn sheep include loss of habitat and disease.