Teton Range herd of bighorns at risk of extinction

Winter recreation may be one of the impacts to the remaining bighorn.

This population of bighorn sheep has dwindled to very low numbers. Inbreeding, habitat loss due to development, and domestic sheep disease have restricted these sheep to very high elevation and sites of low productivity so human entry into these areas during winter may have a severe impact.

Teton Range herd of bighorns at risk of extinction
Scientists are exploring ways to reduce risks to isolated sheep.
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.



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  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Inbreeding is getting to be more and more of an issue in the conservation of rare animals.

    This is one more example. Small populations wink out not just because of adverse trends. When they are perfectly protected random events such as a storm, drought, minor disease can extinguish them. In addition, small populations get more and more inbreed without outside migration and new genes. The get more and more inherited weaknesses and defects.

    This makes the introduction (by humans) of a few new animals from the outside very important. Another alternative would be artificial insemination.

  2. Jeff Avatar

    Considering the distances males ungulates routinely travel, I find it difficult to believe that an occassional ram can’t travel from the northern Tetons to the Southern Tetons.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Yes, but it is still a small isolated population.

  4. Jeff Avatar

    A few years back during the bighorn die off in the Gros Ventre herd I remember a sickly ewe turning up inside a home being built out near the airport on Antelope flats. From that point it would be equidistant to the Tetons or back to the Gros Ventres. I’d definetly like to see the GPS plots to see where these two herds travel and what connectors might be viable back to the east. Are there any sheep in the mtns east of Driggs or on into the lower Snake Canyon between I.F. and Palisades Reservoir?

  5. Bob Caesar Avatar
    Bob Caesar

    What am I missing here? Last year, and I assume in 2010, the Wyo Game & Fish issued hunting tags to kill two rams in the Tetons (They call it the Targhee district). Endangered? Hunted? Extinction? Hmmmm????

  6. Jeff Avatar

    Hunting in the sole source of revenue for game management. The money generated from two rams is significant and its impact on the overall population is miniscule.

  7. Bob Caesar Avatar
    Bob Caesar

    Beg to differ Jeff! A resident sheep license runs $122.00, so that’s $244.00 swelling the coffers of one of the richest States in the Union.

    Killing two breading Rams solely for their trophy value out of a population in emanate danger of “extinction” doesn’t make any sense!

    It begs the same question someone asked a few years ago relative to the dramatically declining moose population in Teton County, Wyoming, “How much should Game & Fish charge to kill the last bull moose in Jackson Hole”?

    If an animal population is “in danger” why in the heck can’t we, don’t we, just hold off hunting them for a couple of years?

    Is the answer the State Of Wyoming need the $244.00 more than it needs wild sheep in the Tetons?

  8. Jeff Avatar

    Two mature rams have little value to the herd as they have already bred and the revenue they generate helps fund their managment. Who says that the tag goes to in-state only? Where is the other source of revenue for game and fish habitat programs? Have you followed the state’s budget process this year? Cheyenne isn’t rolling in cash these days.

  9. Bob Caesar Avatar
    Bob Caesar

    Now THAT is a reach! Budget vs retaining a herd of wild sheep. There simply comes a time when humans must start taking responsibility for wildlife. Especially wildlife we are decimating by our inability to control our own population. As soon as we time and time again start writing off herds of critters because we can raise more $ by selling bubba the right to kill them we become subhuman.

    Oh, and Jeff I am a hunter. I have hunted wild sheep. I accept responsibility for my actions AND for the well being of all wildlife. Here’s my check for $244 so please let the Teton Herd go unhunted for say four years. Then we can start killing them again!

  10. Jeff Avatar

    Send your check directly to WY G&F they will appreciate it.
    5400 Bishop Blvd., Cheyenne, WY 82006

    PS You don’t address the issue though—how many mature rams are necessary for the population to grow. Does harvesting old rams provide more forage for ewes and lambs thus helping the overall herd?


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole