Wyoming Legends: The Whiskey Mountain Bighorn Sheep

Source: National Bighorn Sheep Center, Facebook

Rugged and strong, the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep makes its home in certain parts of Wyoming, including the beautiful Whiskey Basin at the northern end of the Wind River Mountains. These Bighorn sheep, though, are special – an enduring herd that has helped to shape the population of Bighorns across the state.

To learn more about this herd of incredible ungulates, we contacted the experts themselves: the National Bighorn Sheep Center in Dubois, Wyoming.

Article Contributor: Anna Miller, Museum Coordinator, National Bighorn Sheep Center

Can you tell us a little more about the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep?

Bighorn sheep horns are made out of keratin, and they never shed their horns; they grow their entire lives. Each year during the spring and summer, the horns grow the most, and in the fall and winter, the growth slows and eventually stops. This stop-and-start growth pattern creates an annuli ring, and we can count the rings on the sheep's horn to determine their age. Their horns can weigh up to 30 pounds, but the world record's skull and horns weigh 48 pounds.

Bighorn sheep rams can weigh up to 300 pounds, 250 is average and ewes typically are around 150 pounds. When the lambs are born, they usually weigh 10 pounds but can weigh up to 12 pounds.

What is unique or notable about the Whiskey Basin herd?

The Whiskey Mountain Herd was once the largest wintering herd of bighorn sheep in North America. It was large enough that over 1,900 bighorn sheep were transplanted to five other western states and repopulated sheep in a lot of Wyoming. The herd is holding steady between 200-250 animals.

What part does the National Bighorn Sheep Center play?

The Center opened its doors to the public in 1993; over the last 30 years, there have been a number of changes. We have added many new exhibits since 1993, including the albino bighorn sheep, the insect display, and the replica world record heads. We have also added new educational materials, we run our Wild Sheep Webinar Series via Zoom, and have added Camp Bighorn in 2020 to the fun list of activities offered here at the Center. We are currently working on upgrading our museum with some touch-screen, interactive displays.

Education here at the Center is our main focus. We have recently restarted our "Traveling Education Trunks'' where we send an entire trunk of bighorn sheep-related items and lesson plans to schools across the country. The trunks include a sheep skull, sheep horns, glass eyes, an Ovisopoly board game, and 25 lesson plans that directly relate to bighorn sheep. We also have school groups tour the museum, we offer EcoTours, and Camp Bighorn, which is our place-based summer camp for children ages 9-12.

Source: National Bighorn Sheep Center, Facebook

How can people get more involved with the National Bighorn Sheep Center?

We have a few exciting events coming up!

July 1–6 is Camp Bighorn: there's only a couple spots left!

July 3 is our 31st Birthday Party from 3:00 pm-7:00 pm, and there will be cake!

November 2 is Bighorn Bash, which is our largest fundraiser of the year! We are seeking item donations and sponsorships currently.

We are always looking for volunteers and appreciate the support! If anyone is interested in volunteering, they can email info@bighorn.org.

Source: National Bighorn Sheep Center, Facebook

Source: National Bighorn Sheep Center, Facebook