Impact to Society

Impact to Society


petroglyph showing the importance of bighorns in our historyIn ancient times, like other big game, bighorn sheep were a necessity to the survival of the human race. Native Americans such as the Nez Pierce tribe in Hell's Canyon depended on bighorns, the meat for food, the hide for clothing, and the horns for tools and bows. They realized the trade-off required, balancing the populations to their own needs. However, when settlers began invading the territory they devastated, both directly and indirectly, the population of bighorn sheep. They contaminated the water quality, overgrazed their farm animals, and killed many more bighorns than were produced. It was not until the 1900s that concern had been realized. In 1905, Theodore Roosevelt was the first to establish National Forest Reserves to conserve many of the North American animals near extinction. No matter how you look at it, throughout the years, humans have been the cause of bighorn depletion. From the Westward Expansion to the diseases brought about by domestic livestock, we ultimately have an adverse affect on the wildlife.


As the state animal of Nevada, bighorn sheep were one of five possiblities for their state quarter.Today, bighorn sheep are protected by the federal government. They cannot be hunted unless a special license is obtained from the DNR. These licenses are extremely rare and only  a few are issued each year. At North Dakota's 2007 bighorn sheep auction license, the highest bidder won the opportunity to hunt a bighorn. Hunters are aware of this rare opportunity and are not going the pass it up. Selling for a record $50,000, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department used the money from the auction towards bighorn management. In 2007, only six licenses for bighorn sheep were auctioned.


Over the years of living amongst one another, bighorn sheep have become domesticated to humans. As seen in the picture to the right, a Rocky Mountain bighorn licks the snow off a vehicle. It is not uncommon to see bighorns standing alongside the roads of the Rocky Mountains, showing that the population of bighorns is recovering. Although the efforts today are making great strides towards bighorn conservation, there is still much work to be done.