Bighorn Sheep on Mesa Above Rio Pueblo de Taos Rio Grande Confluence

Bighorn Sheep on Mesa Above Rio Pueblo de Taos Rio Grande Confluence

Rio Grande Gorge, where a few dozen Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep released in 2006-2007 have multiplied to a population of 280 in 10 years.

Bighorn sheep were absent from the gorge until 2006, when the Taos Pueblo released 23 onto the landscape. The Department of New Mexico Game and Fish followed with the release of 25 additional bighorns in 2007.

Bighorn sheep thrive in areas with steep, rocky terrain, which can be found in abundance in the gorge along with a year-round water source.

The bighorns spend most of their time in the canyon proper and above the canyon on mesa tops. When outside the gorge, they generally stay close enough so they can retreat to the safety of the canyon. Bighorn sheep have exceptional vision and climbing ability.

The growing bighorn herd is a positive sign in the ongoing efforts to restore the species in New Mexico.

While getting photographs of this animal is al-ways exciting, having an opportunity to witness two rams in the rut is a memory that will last a lifetime. The slamming of heads is a violent act as the two animals charge at speeds around 20 mph. The sound of the collision can be heard up to a mile away.

Mating season for low-elevation Rocky Mountain bighorns runs from November to December, meaning the time is approaching to get the camera ready. During this time of year, rams battle for dominance and access to the females.

A good area to view bighorns is the West Rim Trail that extends from the rest area west of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge on U.S. 64 and runs south along the canyon rim to NM 567 above the Taos Junction Bridge.

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