Historical accounts suggest that, in the late 1600s, millions of bighorn sheep roamed the mountains of western North America at the time of European contact. By the 1900s, that number had dropped to several thousand due to vulnerability of the bighorn to the diseases of European livestock such as scabies and anthrax. Extensive trophy hunting for their large horns also added to their decimation. And as with all wild animals, the loss of natural habitat threatened the entire species.
Efforts for conservation
Many states and environmental groups continue today to work together to protect the fragile populations of North America's bighorn sheep. Today's biggest threats continue to be loss of habitat, illegal hunting and climatic changes. But hope remains that through conservation efforts, the magnificent bighorn sheep of North America will continue to recover in numbers and their symbolic massive curved horns will remain a cherished sight of the great American West.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.