The Unusual Beauty Dall Sheep
I offer Limited Edition, Fine Art photographs of Dall Sheep that are for sale as Fine Art Prints, Metal Prints, and Acrylic prints. One of these pictures of Dall Sheep will add a dramatic focal point to any room!
As a wildlife photographer, large mammals are a major attraction. Add to that a large mammal that is all white and not because it is an albino. Photos of Dall Sheep can be taken at Denali National Park in Alaska.
Usually, Dall Sheep are up high in the steep mountains and pretty much unavailable for good wildlife photography. On this wonderful fall day in Denali, they were hanging around the road near Polychrome Pass. I spent an hour or so with them before they decided to head up the mountain. It was a rare opportunity that I will never forget.
History, Habitat, and Facts About Dall Sheep
When most people think of large, imposing animals that live in the mountains, they probably picture grizzly bears. After all, it’s not every day you see a moose or deer walking down the side of the road. But there is another animal that deserves attention: Dall sheep.
Dall sheep can be found living in the rugged mountain ranges of the northern Rocky Mountains, Alaska Range, Canadian Rockies, Coast Mountain Range, and the Cascade Range. Dall sheep are one of North America’s most populous ungulates and can be found living at elevations between 6500-11000 ft., as well as various other habitats like shrublands, grasslands, and forests.
They feed on plants like sedges, lichens, and things that grow higher up on trees like willows. However, whereas grizzlies are massive carnivores with sharp claws to tear meat from their prey, Dall sheep are herbivores, which rely on oral grinding of their food. Dall sheep only eat plants and only get meat from dead animals they find or perhaps an unfortunate run-in with a bear.
Dall sheep vary in color, but the most common is a solid white fleece with black horns. Females look the same as males except for having smaller, more slender horns. On average, male Dalls stand about 4 ft. at the shoulder and weigh up to 250 lbs., while females may reach 3 ft in height at most and can weigh up to 120 lbs.
Dall sheep live in herds of between 10 and 50 animals, oftentimes led by a dominant male which has exclusive breeding rights to all ewes (female) in his group. During the mating season—which lasts from June until November depending on location— mature rams butt heads during ritualized competitions over dominance. These battles involve quick moves and strong jabs from the ram’s imposing horns. The objective of these fights is to force rival males away from a group of females, rather than to kill them.
If two rams are equally matched, they may remain locked in combat for hours on end with neither male backing down. Once dominance has been established, however, mating can ensue. In fact, a rammed ewe will often be mounted by multiple rams over the course of several days before she becomes pregnant. And when that happens, she will seek privacy where she gives birth to her lamb somewhere secluded like a riverbed or cave between December and February after a gestation period of seven months.
Dall sheep have played an important role in the culture and economy of many indigenous people groups throughout North America for centuries. They have been hunted for their meat, wool, horns, and hides. The fur from their white fleece was especially prized by Native Americans who used it to make clothing, blankets, gloves, and hats. Dall sheep populations are currently stable, but they remain vulnerable to hunting pressure, habitat loss, and climate change.