Desert Bighorn Sheep

Desert Bighorn Sheep are smaller and lighter in color than the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. These majestic mammals were chosen as the state mammal of Nevada and are an exciting sight to see across the Nevada landscape. They are easily recognized by their horns that both rams and ewes have. These mammals are highly adapted to the mountainous desert habitat. They can go for extended periods without water, and have highly specialized hooves that help them grip the rocky terrain.
SCIENTIFIC NAME
Ovis canadensis nelsoni
CLASSIFICATION
Mammal
LIFE SPAN
6-8 Years
SIZE
60-71 ” | 90-180 lbs
STATE CONSERVATION STATUS
  • Priority Species
FEDERAL CONSERVATION STATUS
Least Concern
GAME STATUS
Game
GAME TYPE
Big Game
  1. Washoe
  2. Humboldt
  3. Pershing
  4. Churchill
  5. Mineral
  6. Lyon
  7. Douglas
  8. Carson City
  9. Storey
  1. Elko
  2. Lander
  3. Eureka
  4. White Pine
  1. Esmeralda
  2. Nye
  3. Lincoln
  4. Clark

Habitat & Range

This species of Bighorn Sheep prefers the rough and rocky habitat of mountains in Southern Nevada. Steep rocks offer protection against predators, who are unable to navigate and climb up after the bighorn sheep. Although residents of deserts, they do require freestanding water to help them get through the hot summers.

  • Alpine and Tundra
  • Cliffs and Canyons
  • Desert Washes

Threats

  • Disease
  • Habitat Fragmentation

Natural History

Desert Bighorn Sheep are herbivores whose diet consists of mostly grasses but also includes shrubs, cacti, acacia, and forbs. Their diet depends on their geographic location and availability of vegetation. In the warmer months, they graze on mountain slopes. During the colder months, they move down to the valleys. Mating season, called the “rut,” occurs in the fall when rams (male sheep) will compete to mate with females. Later in the season, rams will join females and female groups. In the winter, bands of ewes (female bighorn sheep) may join together and form large groups of up to 100 sheep.

Fun Facts

The horns of a ram are called "curls" and can weigh up to 30 pounds!