Ovis canadensis

Range and Distribution

Once thought to number from 1.5 to 2 million in North America, now many bighorn sheep populations struggle to maintain viable numbers; present numbers are around 40,000. Intermittent pockets of native bighorn persist in areas of the West but efforts to reintroduce bighorn and/or supplement pre-existing populations have been stymied by the continued persistence of federal agencies permitting domestic sheep to graze on federal public land.

A major concern is loss of genetic diversity, a function having small bands of bighorns that are located in isolation from other bands, leading to inbreeding and significant weakening of genetic diversity, a trend which can lead to extinction.

Bighorn Sheep populations throughout Montana, and the West, are declining at alarming rates. The primary causes include fatal respiratory disease contracted from domestic sheep, habitat loss, and loss of genetic diversity. These are critical issues that must be addressed with a sense of urgency, if we are to assure this specie's survival.


Domestic Sheep, Disease, and Public Lands

When bighorn sheep come into contact with domestic sheep, there is a high probability that they will contract a fatal form of pneumonia. Gallatin Wildlife Association advocates for selected closure of public lands sheep grazing allottments, to protect wild bighorn sheep. We believe that the highest use for public wildlands is wildlife, not livestock.

Bighorn Sheep Disease Reference Page


Restoring Bighorn Sheep to Former Ranges

There are vast areas of Montana, and the west, that were formerly occupied by wild Bighorn Sheep, but are now devoid of Bighorns due to disease from domestic sheep, overhunting, and habitat loss. Gallatin Wildlife Association advocates for reintrocuction of wild Bighorns. Rgrettably, efforts by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to reintroduce wild bighorns to three areas, was recently blocked by local anti-wildlife farm/ranch interests.



Gallatin Wildlife Association
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