Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep belongs to the family Bovidae, order Artiodactyla. The scientific name of the species is Ovis Canadensis. The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep is one of the subspecies of the Bighorn Sheep. The other two subspecies are the Desert Bighorn Sheep and the Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep (or California Bighorn Sheep).
The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep and other subspecies of the Bighorn Sheep for many centuries were hunted by the Native Americans. These proud and majestic animals were amongst the most admired animals for them. In ancient American mythology, Bighorn Sheep are described as powerful, sure footed, sharp eyed, and wise animals. Large horns of the Bighorn Sheep were (and still are) used in religious ceremonies. Nowadays, these animals are protected by law and can be hunted only under license. They serve as a tourist attraction for those who want to watch Bighorn Sheep in their habitat. The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep is a good indicator of a healthy ecosystem, because it’s very sensitive to human-related environmental problems.
The ancestors of the American sheep migrated from Siberia through the Bering land bridge about 800,000 years ago. They spread throughout the present-day North America and formed a distinct species about 600,000 years ago. Some time later, they diverged into two species – Dall Sheep that inhabits Alaska and Canada and Bighorn Sheep that is found in the North America. In the course of evolution, a number of hybridizations have occurred between these species. For many centuries, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep were common in Canada, the western United States, and Northern Mexico. Their population in the 19th century was estimated to be around 2 million.
In the early 20th century, the population of Bighorn Sheep had decreased to several thousand. The population of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep decreased to less than a thousand species. The main threats to these animals were excessive hunting for their meat, horns, and hides, competitions from domestic sheep and cattle for pastures, and diseases transmitted by the introduced domestic stock. Though effective conservation program saved the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep and most other subspecies, one of the subspecies that inhabited the Black Hills became extinct.