Natural Habitat Adventures

Know Before You Go

Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Facts | Yosemite Wildlife Guide

This endangered subspecies of the bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis sierrae) was on the verge of extinction not long ago.

When Yosemite National Park was created, hunting was allowed within the park boundaries, and all Sierra Nevada bighorns that lived in the park were killed in the first 25 years of the park’s existence.

After decades of absence, the first effort to re-introduce bighorns to Yosemite National Park happened in 1986 when 27 were translocated from other parts of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This small herd was decimated by mountain lions and severe winters.

By 1995, the entire Sierra Nevada bighorn population was estimated to be no more than 125 individuals. This led to them being listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife was tasked with developing a recovery plan.

As part of this plan, in 2015, 13 sheep were translocated into the Cathedral Range in Yosemite National Park — an area that hadn’t seen Sierra Nevada bighorns for over a century. Their numbers were augmented with another translocation of five additional rams in 2016 and two more in 2017.

Today, there are dozens of bighorns making up three herds in the Cathedral Range, which are part of an overall population that has grown to over 600 throughout the Sierra Nevada range.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The bighorn sheep’s fur is tan or brown in color, and it has a white belly, rump and muzzle. The ram’s large horns can weigh 30 or 40 pounds, representing over 10% of total body weight. The ewe’s, or female’s, horns are more slender and less curved. Males weigh between 125 and 220 pounds; the females of this species are smaller, weighing up to 155 pounds. The bighorn is a good climber and jumper. Its hooves are hard around the outside and soft on the inside, which help give them traction on slippery rocks.

Their horns are less massive and curled than the weapons found on desert bighorns.


BEHAVIOR & BREEDING

In the fall, males have head butting contests to establish dominance; however, rams usually only fight with other males that have similar-sized horns. They run at each other at speeds of up to 20 miles-per-hour and ram their heads together. Amazingly, head butting contests have been known to last as long as 20 hours! The dominant ram will mate with more females than the other rams. When a male is ready to mate, he will go into a herd of females. The female will chase the male before they mate, and sometimes, a male will kick a female to get her to chase him.

Females typically give birth to their single offspring on a cliff that is difficult to access. Lambs are born woolly and white with little horns. The lamb will stay hidden where it was born for about a week, and then it will start to follow its mother. Male lambs will leave their mother and join a male group when they are between two and four years old. Female lambs will usually remain with their mother’s group for their entire lives.

Header Credit: California Department of Fish and Game, from Sacramento, CA, USA. CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
See Bighorn Sheep on These Yosemite Adventures
Repeater Layout : vertical
An Insider's Journey into Yosemite
New Trip!

An Insider's Journey into Yosemite

Yosemite as few will experience it—our exclusive small group surveys all the highlights plus hidden discoveries, with interpretive insights from our naturalist guides who know Yosemite intimately.
8 Days / Jul–Sep
From $6995
Limited to 14 Travelers
New Trip!
CXL Yosemite Valley Explorer
New Trip!

CXL Yosemite Valley Explorer

An in-depth exploration of the heart of Yosemite in the late spring shoulder season, when waterfalls are at peak volume, wildflowers are starting to emerge, and visitors are fewer.
6 Days / May–Jun
From $5995
Limited to 14 Travelers
New Trip!
Know Before You Go

Get Weekly Updates

Our weekly eNewsletter highlights new adventures, exclusive offers, webinars, nature news, travel ideas, photography tips and more.
Privacy Policy
We're Proud of the Reputation We’ve Earned
Outside
Voted "World's Best Travel
Company"
by Outside Magazine
Outside
Natural Habitat Adventures Ranked
“Best Outfitter”
NatGeo
Voted Best Winter Trip: Natural Habitat Adventures' Monarch Butterfly Migration, Mexico
VIEW MORE AWARDS

Send Me Travel Emails

Get the Inside Scoop on the

World of Nature Travel

Our weekly eNewsletters highlights new adventures, exclusive offers, webinars, nature news, travel ideas, photography tips and more. Sign up today!

Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Send Me Travel Emails
Privacy Policy
Thank you for joining our email list

Look for a special welcome message in your inbox, arriving shortly! Be sure to add naturalhabitat@nathab.com to your email contacts so you don’t miss out on future emails.

Request Your 2022 Catalog

Discover the World's Best

Nature Travel Experiences

Nathab 2022 Catalog

Together, Natural Habitat Adventures and World Wildlife Fund have teamed up to arrange nearly a hundred nature travel experiences around the planet, while helping to protect the spectacular places we visit and their wild inhabitants.

Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Request Your 2022/2023 Catalog
Continued - Page 2 of 2
To help us customize your catalog request, please tell us more about your travel needs:
Thank you for requesting a catalog
We’ve received your request. If you have any questions about our trips, please feel free to contact an Adventure Specialist today by calling 800-543-8917.

Get Weekly Updatess

Discover the World's Best

Nature Travel Experiences

Our weekly eNewsletter highlights new adventures, exclusive offers, webinars, nature news, travel ideas, photography tips and more. Sign up today!

Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Send Me Travel Emails
Privacy Policy
Thank you for joining our email list!

Look for a special welcome message in your inbox, arriving shortly! Be sure to add naturalhabitat@nathab.com to your email contacts so you don’t miss out on future emails.

Send Us a Message

Send Us a Message

Have a question or comment? Use the form to the right to get in touch with us.

Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Send Us a Message
Thank you for your message

We’ll be in touch soon with a response.

Refer a Friend

Refer a Friend
Earn rewards for referring your friends! We'd like to thank our loyal travelers for spreading the word. Share your friend's address so we can send a catalog, and if your friend takes a trip as a first-time Nat Hab traveler, you'll receive a $250 Nat Hab gift card you can use toward a future trip or the purchase of Nat Hab gear. To refer a friend, just complete the form below or call us at 800-543-8917. It's that easy! See rules and fine print here.
Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
Refer a Friend

Earn rewards for referring your friends! We'd like to thank our loyal travelers for spreading the word. Share your friend's address so we can send a catalog, and if your friend takes a trip as a first-time Nat Hab traveler, you'll receive a $250 Nat Hab gift card you can use toward a future trip or the purchase of Nat Hab gear. To refer a friend, just complete the form below or call us at 800-543-8917. It's that easy! See rules and fine print here.

Thank you for the referral!

We've received your friend's information.

View Our 2023 Digital Catalog

View Our 2023

Digital Catalog

Help us save paper! We offer a digital version of The World's Greatest Nature Journeys. If you'd prefer a mailed copy, please provide your contact details here. To view our digital catalog, please enter your info in the form to the right.
Natural Habitat Adventures Logo WWF Logo
View Digital Catalog
Happy browsing!

Thanks for requesting access to our digital catalog. Click here to view it now. You’ll also receive it by email momentarily.

Our Trips

Polar Bear Tours

Polar Bear Tours

African Safaris

African Safaris

U.S. National Parks Tours

U.S. National Parks Tours

Alaska Adventures

Alaska Adventures

Canada & the North

Canada & the North

Galapagos Tours

Galapagos Tours

Mexico & Central America Tours

Mexico & Central America Tours

South America Adventures

South America Adventures

Europe Adventures

Europe Adventures

Asia & Pacific Adventures

Asia & Pacific Adventures

Antarctica & Arctic Journeys

Antarctica & Arctic Journeys

Adventure Cruises

Adventure Cruises

Photography Adventures

Photography Adventures

Family Adventures

Family Adventures

New Adventures

New Adventures

Questions? Call 800-543-8917

Contact Us

Have a question or comment?
Click any of the buttons below to get in touch with us.

Hours
Mountain Time

  • 8 am to 5 pm, Monday - Friday
  • 8 am to 3 pm on Saturday
  • Closed on Sunday
Call 800-543-8917
Questions? Click to Chat
Questions? Click to Chat
/know-before-you-go/us-national-parks/yosemite/wildlife-guide/sierra-nevada-bighorn-sheep/