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Fauna Series No. 4






Population and Mortality







Other Larger Mammals

Small Mammals


Misc. Diet



Fauna of the National Parks — No. 4
Ecology of the Coyote in the Yellowstone
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MUCH desirable information on the distribution of the bighorn (Ovis canadensis canadensis) is still lacking. Although it is known that some of the animals on the Mount Everts winter range summer on Mount Washburn. it is not definitely known where the remainder spend the summer except that some of the rams move to the Gallatin Range. Neither is it definitely known where the bighorn wintering in the Tower Falls area spend the summer. Winter and summer distribution in the northeastern section of the park is not well understood. Much of this information will be important in analyzing the status of the bighorn.

Bighorn are known to winter in the Mount Everts area, along the Yellow stone River from Gardiner to Quartz Creek, on parts of Specimen Ridge away from the Yellowstone River, on Druid Peak, and on Mount Norris and in some nearby peaks. The heaviest concentration of bighorn in winter is in the Mount Everts area, which includes parts of Terrace Mountain and Rattlesnake Butte. Some of these animals wander outside the park on either side of Bear Creek.

On the winter range along several miles of the Yellowstone River between Gardiner and Quartz Creek the bighorn are widely scattered except on the ledges along the Yellowstone River between Little Buffalo Creek and Quartz Creek where probably 60 or more animals can usually be found. In the winter of 1937—38 I saw 17 bighorns on Druid Peak and in the winter of 1938—39 the rangers reported seeing 21 animals in this area, as well as about 30 on Mount Norris and surrounding peaks. The bighorn on Druid Peak and in the Mount Norris area winter up high although most of the others are wintering lower down. The important factors determining the winter range of the bighorn seem to be an available food supply and the presence of cliffs. Much of the range is wind blown, although in some areas the snow does not lie deep. The bighorn paw readily for food and, if feed is present, some snow does not handicap them greatly.

Figure 37— An isolated young ram a short time before he died. The heavy infestation of scab mites, causing loss of long hairs over side of the body and parts of neck, was seen on several young rams in the fall.
Mount Everts, January 16, 1938.

In summer a band of about 30 ewes and usually some young rams are found on Mount Washburn. Some of the old rams from the Mount Everts winter range move into the Gallatin Range for the summer and ewes have been reported summering in these mountains. A number of bighorn summer in the northeast corner of the park but their distribution is not known in detail. Some occur on Cutoff Peak and others in the mountains east of Soda Butte Creek.

It is my impression that the number of bighorn in the park has not varied much in late years. The annual counts have shown an increase but it is probable that this is in part at least a result of more complete counts. However, the animals are holding their own and may possibly be increasing. With the discovery of additional bands in the park in the winter of 1938—39, there will probably be a further increase in the annual census for that year. The official count as made by rangers in the park is as follows for the past 5 years: 1934 (125); 1935 (126); 1936 (118); 1937 (175); 1938 (175).

The number of bighorn in the park is no doubt less than in early times. Large numbers were once found in the Hoodoos on the eastern edge of the park. This was a favorite hunting ground. Many bighorn once lived on the Trident in the Upper Yellowstone Region. Early hunting probably destroyed most of these animals and apparently eliminated bighorn populations which by habit ranged in areas where none are now found.

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Last Modified: Thurs, Dec 20 2001 10:00:00 pm PDT

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