Populations of the desert bighorn sheep declined drastically with European colonization of the American Southwest beginning in the 16th century. These declines were followed by a period of population stabilization ascribed to conservation measures. Desert bighorn sheep numbers remain extremely low, although the overall population trend has increased since 1960.
The Desert bighorn sheep population in the Grand Canyon is the only non-re-introduced population of this species, making them important for bighorn conservation efforts across the southwest. Although hunting, grazing, and transplanting do not occur in the park itself, these activities do occur on the park boundaries and can affect park populations. In addition, there are impacts from hikers and tourists who float the river. Some evidence suggests that bighorn, just as elk and deer, will ingest food wrappers, tent plastics, and other human-related items. The ingestion of these materials can cause serious impacts to the digestive system of these animals.
More information on the species.
Current Research in Grand Canyon National Park is aimed at understanding the distribution of these animals in the park, and how they are affected by disease.
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This female desert bighorn sheep is not very shy! Get the close-up view of this beautiful animal calmly chewing as she suns herself near the very edge of Grand Canyon. (30 fps, 1080p)
Last updated: January 31, 2017