Bighorn Sheep, also known as Ovis Canadensis, is my favorite species of wildlife to watch during their early winter rut. They can be seen from close distances while they are completely indifferent to human presence. Early December, Rams are in the process of, or have just, established a dominance hierarchy. It is possible to see rams present their horns as an identifying feature to one another. Rams size each other up and possibly clash to identify their status. Clashes are incredibly impressive to watch. Rams don’t give much notice when they are about to clash. Often they are standing 20 yards apart then they run and when they are about to make contact they will rear up on their hind legs and make contact with their keratinous horns. This crash can be heard up to a mile away. Mature rams may clash up to a dozen times in an hour. You may see the contestants then rub scent on each other from their preorbital scent gland for latter recognition.
The keen observer might have the opportunity to watch young and old rams alike advance toward a ewe and force the female to stand up and urinate with a light kick. The male might then taste or smell the urine and exhibit the flehmen response. Look for the rams extending their neck out and curling their upper lip up. The main function is to transfer scent to the Jacobson organ to assess chemical clues. Males during the rut often exhibit the flehmen response to identity the reproductive status of a particular ewe.
Enjoy one of our winter wildlife EcoTours to explore Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. We provide a great introduction to the National Park and Western Wyoming while observing as much wildlife as possible. This is an educational activity for couples and families alike. Call for more details, we guarantee a wildlife tour to remember.