Sheep Peak Lodge. Somewhere in the far north; Alaska or Canada
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Named after American naturalist William Healey Dall (1845–1927), Dall’s sheep (Ovis dalli), most often referred to as dall sheep. are native to northwestern North America. Dall sheep are typically all white in color, although a few black hairs on the tail are not uncommon. The white coat is an adaptation, or special trait that helps them survive. Dall sheep typically move to lower altitudes in the winter, but predators are more numerous there. The white coat helps the sheep go unseen against the snow by predators. In the summer months, their coat does not change color, but stays white. They are still protected, however, because they move to steep and rocky cliffs where predators are hard-pressed to follow. to slate brown.The sheep inhabit the subarctic mountain ranges of Alaska, the Yukon Territory, the Mackenzie Mountains in the western Northwest Territories, 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. The primary predators of Dall’s sheep are wolves, coyotes, black bears, and grizzly bears; golden eagles are predators of the young.Dall’s sheep walk a survival tightrope, although they do it rather effectively. They have lived since the Pleistocene in places such as Alaska’s Arctic Refuge.
Male sheep have thick 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.
All ungulates walk on hoofed toes. Hooves are made of keratin, which encases the toe bones. Dall’s sheep walk on two toes which places them in the “even-toed” group of ungulates similar to giraffes, deer, and camels. Hooves are another adaptation that enable Dall sheep to live on rocky, steep terrain. Their toes are flexible and able to adjust to the uneven surfaces in their mountain habitats where sure footing is essential.
During the summer when food is abundant, the sheep eat a wide variety of plants; primarily grasses and sedges along with broad-leaved plants and dwarf willows. 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 populations visit mineral licks during the spring, and often travel many miles to eat the soil around the licks. Sheep will often travel to mineral licks to eat soil. These are typically rocky outcrops where high concentrations of minerals are pooled. This replenishes essential minerals that the sheep cannot get from their daily diet of plants.
Dall’s sheep have well developed social systems. Adult rams live in bands, or groups, associated with ewe groups during the mating season. Since Dall sheep are very loyal to their social group, they have very specific home ranges After joining a social group, sheep are never known to leave it.