Big Big Horn Sheep Herd - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Big Big Horn Sheep Herd

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CODY, WYOMING -

Northwest Wyoming has the most robust Big Horn Sheep herd in the lower 48 United States, and you can see them up close right now. The spectacular herd brings professional photographers and documentary filmmakers to the Cody area.

It's the holiday gift that keeps giving. In the winter, Big Horn Sheep come down to the North and South Forks of the Shoshone Forest, right down to the road. They're in their breeding season from around Thanksgiving to mid December.

Photographer and high school teacher, Amy Gerber said, "They're in the rut, so the rams are really aggressive toward one another. The sound of then clashing, it echoes through the mountains, and it's pretty amazing to watch."

Gerber is one of many locals who come to watch the Big Horn Sheep do their dance this time of year. People drive in from other parts of Wyoming, and Montana too.

Wild Sheep Foundation Biologist and former Wyoming Game and Fish Sheep expert, Kevin Hurley said, "The rut is on. The rams are getting together. The rams are clashing heads. They're chasing those ewes around relentlessly."

This year, the herd near Cody is being filmed by a National Geographic Wild crew. The cameramen and producer braved below zero temperatures to record the rut. But this herd is not just photogenic, it's notoriously robust.

Throughout the Rocky Mountains, biologists have had to bring in sheep to restart or augment herds in other areas, like the Big Horn Mountains. But not this herd. Hurley has been studying them for more than 30 years.

He explained, "As far as the records indicate, the Absarokas, with about 4000 Big Horns, have never been supplemented into. This 4000 is about as robust as any Big Horn Sheep population in their range."

There is one thing that threatens these sheep. Automobiles.

Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Biologist, Doug McWhorter said, "They are right on the road sometimes, and that's one of the reasons why we have a lower speed limit along the North Fork of the Shoshone along the highway."

Game and Fish Biologist, Doug McWhorter, says the people do a pretty good job of keeping their distance from the sheep, although the sheep don't always keep their distance from the people.

The sheep will be down along the road and easy to see until mid-May, but the rut is usually over by Christmas. The North and South Fork herds number about 400. They are a part of the Absaroka herd.