Dall sheep are a Thinhorn sheep (Ovis dalli), a species of sheep native to northwestern North America, ranging from white to slate brown in color and having curved yellowish brown horns. There are two subspecies: the nominate Dall sheep and the more southern subspecies, Stone sheep (Ovis dalli stonei), which is a slaty brown with some white patches on the rump and inside the hind legs.
We were fortunate to find and photograph a herd of approximately 40 Dall sheep right along the Alaska Highway at the Kluane National Park’s Tachäl Dhäl (formerly known as Sheep Mountain). Kluane National Park is located in Canada’s Yukon Territory. The sheep come down from the nearby high slopes to drink water from the Slims River or Kluane Lake and to lick minerals along the roadway. The herd was primarily females with their young. There were several males in the group. It was awesome to watch them interact and climb on the nearby slopes. Before this treat, we had only been able to view them as white dots on high slopes.
Dall sheep inhabit the subarctic mountain ranges of Alaska, the Yukon Territory, the Mackenzie Mountains in the western Northwest Territories, and central and northern British Columbia. Dall sheep are found in relatively dry country and try to stay in a special combination of open alpine ridges, meadows, and steep slopes with extremely rugged ground in the immediate vicinity, to allow escape from predators that cannot travel quickly through such terrain.
Male Dall sheep have thicker curling horns. The females have shorter, more slender, slightly curved horns. Males live in bands which seldom associate with female groups except during the mating season in late November and early December. Lambs are born in May.
During the summer when food is abundant, the sheep eat a wide variety of plants. The winter diet is much more limited, and consists primarily of dry, frozen grass and sedge stems available when snow is blown off, lichen and moss. Many Dall sheep populations visit mineral licks during the spring, and often travel many miles to eat the soil around the licks.
The primary predators of Dall sheep are wolves, coyotes, black bears, and grizzly bears; golden eagles are predators of the young. The Dall sheep has been known to butt wolves off the face of cliffs.
Dall sheep can often be observed along the Alaska Highway at Muncho Lake in British Columbia, along the Seward Highway South of Anchorage, AK, within Denali National Park and Preserve (which was created in 1917 to preserve Dall sheep from over-hunting), at Sheep Mountain in Kluane National Park and Reserve, as well as near Faro, Yukon (Fannin’s sheep).