Bighorn Sheep Hunting
Bighorn Sheep hunting has been prohibited since the early 20th century. Strict conservation measures were taken after excessive hunts of the 19th century, which put the Bighorn Sheep on the brink of extinction. European settlers killed Bighorn Sheep massively for their meat, hides, and horns. Since pristine times, there has been no such a bloody period like the middle and the end of the 19th century.
Bighorn Sheep hunting was not the only threat to their population. European settlers brought much domestic stock to the New World, which spread infection diseases to wild animals. Many Bighorn Sheep died of pneumonia. Besides, many human activities contributed to the decline of the Bighorn’s population. Mining, agriculture, road building, and homesteading destroyed the habitat of the Bighorn Sheep that prefer quiet remote areas. These animals are very important for the ecosystem. They consume a great variety of plants and shrubs and serve as a source of prey for a number of predators. There is no negative effect of these animals on humans.
Although Bighorn Sheep hunting is banned, poaching remains a serious threat to their population. They are hunted for their large horns. The main problem of trophy hunting is killing the strongest dominant males that lead the group. It eliminates the best breeding males from the gene pool. Bighorn Sheep live in small bands consisting of a ram and several ewes. Breeding in the desert may occur anytime depending on climatic conditions. If the ram is killed, his ewes have to find another one, which may be difficult because of a low population density in the desert and in the mountains.
Nowadays, Bighorn Sheep are considered to be Conservation Dependent. It means that their population fluctuates depending on the conservations measures taken. Habitat preservation is what this species needs most of all. Bighorn Sheep prefer areas where they are safe from predators and can find enough food. Bighorn Sheep may be threatened with eventual extinction because of hunting and climatic changes. In the 1960s, Bighorn Sheep suffered much from drought, diseases of domestic cattle and predation of mountain lions combined. Bighorn Sheep hunting is allowed in some places under a license, if their population is considered to be stable.