August 12th - Photo Of The Week...
Taken early this morning, this week's photo features a herd of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep along Highway 34 in the Big Thompson Canyon west of Drake, Colorado.
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep are in the class Mammalia (mammals). Order is Artiodactyla (cloven-hooted mammals). Their family is Bovidae (antelope, cattle, sheep, and goats), and their genus is Ovis (sheep).
For protection, the bighorn's own good sense gives it plenty of warning. If it cannot outrun its enemy, then it may turn and charge. The bighorn must watch out for predators such as wolves, bears, coyotes, bobcats, and lynx. It prefers open areas.
The bighorn's horns grow from the top of its head, and then curve away around the neck.
A bighorn horn is very heavy and may weigh up to 14 kg (30 pounds), and measure 115 cm (45 inches). The record length of the horns in the United States is 50 inches. The bighorn uses them to fight for females during mating season or to fight off predators.
The Rocky Mountain bighorn has a brown and white coat with a dark line that runs down the back of its spine. Like a lamb, the bighorn has wool, but it is hidden under a covering of long guard hairs. Its lower belly, rump, and muzzle tip (nose) are all a creamy white. Its short tail is dark and its ears are small. Males can weigh 155 kilograms (340 pounds.) The females, or ewes, are much smaller. A full grown male, also known as a ram, may stand one meter (3.3 feet) tall at the shoulder.
The mating season starts in October and continues through the long winter. The bighorn begins breeding at the age of four. Its neck becomes thicker and it starts competing for the females with its horns. When
babies are born they feed from their mothers and when they are strong enough, they are led down to the grassy slopes. From there, another bighorn keeps an eye on the baby. A female can produce one to three babies at one time.