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Sheep at the Top of the World

February 27, 2018

Sheep at the Top of the World

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Chip Weiskotten Chip Weiskotten

Bighorn sheep live at the top of the world. Forced from most of their historic range by hunting in the mid-1800s and early 1900s, the remaining bighorns sought refuge near the clouds where they were less accessible to humans. Today, they can often be found above 10,000 feet, where I spotted this bachelor group relaxing in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.

Come autumn, this alpine serenity will be broken by the “rut,” in which the rams collide their massive horns together at speeds of up to 40 mph in a contest of dominance for the right to mate with the ewes. The resulting crashes can be heard a mile away.

The slow recovery of bighorn sheep is one way to appreciate the importance of parks and protected areas. Without them, the majestic bighorns and their powerful displays of strength might be confined to nature films and history books, and not on view for everyday park visitors.

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