Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep inhabit alpine meadows, grassy mountain slopes and the foothill country near rugged, rocky cliffs and bluffs that they use for quick escapes. Specially adapted hooves allow these sheep to walk over steep, slippery slopes.  Bighorns inhabit many BLM-managed areas in Idaho, especially the rugged canyonlands of southwestern Idaho.

Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn sheep rest in a meadow.

Bighorns prefer to eat grasses, sedges, and forbs (flowering range plants).  In winter, they eat woody plants like willow and sage.  Under its multiple use mandate, the BLM is responsible for providing habitat suitable for sustaining bighorn sheep populations on public lands as it manages these lands for other uses, including domestic sheep grazing.

Bighorn sheep

Domestic sheep and bighorns are susceptible to some of the same diseases, including pneumonia caused by the pathogen Mannheimia haemolytica. Infection can spread between individual infected bighorn and domestic sheep that come in close contact, and it generally hits bighorn sheep harder. This presents a challenge for the BLM as it manages public lands for use as bighorn sheep habitat and grazing pasture for domestic sheep, because disease transmitted from domestic sheep can have long-term effects – down through multiple generations – on bighorn sheep herds at a regional scale.

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has developed recommendations for managing domestic sheep (and goats) in areas that also serve as habitat for bighorns. It assists the BLM and U.S. Forest Service in managing public land resources for these multiple uses.

READ or DOWNLOAD | WAFWA Recommendations for Domestic Sheep and Goat Management in Wild Sheep Habitat (2012)