Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Big Horn Sheep - Love on the Rocks in RMNP

Today's Guest Blogger is Jared Gricoskie of Yellow Wood Guiding

Here in Rocky Mountain National Park, December is the Big Horn Sheep's mating season. Big Horns spend most of the year in small bands of females and lambs, with the males in separate bands of mixed ages. Most of the time females just want to eat grass generally on a southern facing slope, but for as little as 48 hours a year the ladies are in estrus and looking for the right guy. During these extremely brief mating periods, females attract males through scent and may attract more than a handful of suitors. Females select males on a basis of body size, horn size, and fitness. They attract a few males and then run, much like a scene from a school yard where the boys chase the girls. During the pursuit, the lead male will often turn on the males behind him and clash. The sounds of two rams crashing their heads together can be heard from over a mile away. In the end, the female selects a male to mate with and will very likely not interact with him again. So be sure to scan the rocky southern facing cliffs around Estes Park during the first two weeks of December. For Big Horn Sheep, love really is on the rocks.

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