Viewing Bighorn Sheep in Colorado

Colorado is blessed by its magnificent wilderness and natural sites. Year round we have the chance to admire fascinating wildlife in our state parks.

During November and December, Colorado citizens and visitors have the opportunity to view in its natural habit one of the most emblematic mammals in Colorado. In fact, it is a Colorado State symbol.

If you still don’t know which animal I am talking about, here is another hint. It is named after its large, curved horns, which can weight up to 30 lbs. You got it! It is the Bighorn sheep.

Bighorn sheep are amazing and beautiful mammals that range in color from light brown to grayish or dark, chocolate brown, with a white rump and lining on the backs of all four legs.

Rams (males) have the traditional large, curved horns. They typically weigh between 127–316 lb and are between 36 and 41 inches tall at the shoulder, and 69–79 inches long from the nose to the tail.

Ewes (females) are smaller than rams and also have horns, but they are shorter with less curvature.

things for kids to doWatching Tips

It is stated that Bighorn sheep crossed to North America over the Bering land bridge from Siberia. They are found in the cooler mountainous regions of Canada and the United States, like The Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada.

Bighorns are well adapted to climbing steep terrain where they seek cover from predators, which also make them hard to find and admire. Nonetheless, they tend to avoid wooded areas where their vision is limited because sight is their main defense against predators.

Therefore, try to look for bighorn sheep in rocky terrain with good visibility and an uphill escape route. In winter Bighorn choose grassy south- and west-facing slopes, where sun and wind keep snow clear from the grass.

Watch for movement and pale shapes. As you scan a slope, look for their white rump patch. Be patient and scan slowly. Watch for large shapes that seem out of place.

Remember to keep a safe distance and not to bother or feed them. Make use of binoculars, telescopes or long-range cameras, instead of trying to get too close.

During this time of the year, Bighorn sheep are competing for a breeding partner and you will be able to enjoy dramatic behavior. Rams display their horns, shove and finally charge at each other, butting heads with tremendous force. So, if you get the chance to view such battle, stay calm, keep your distance and enjoy the show.