One of America’s most prized hunting trophies, the Stone sheep is a more southern subspecies of the Dall sheep.
Stone sheep are primarily found in Northern British Columbia and the southern Yukon. The coat of the Stone sheep varies greatly in color and pattern, ranging from almost white in the north through shades of gray or dark brown in their more southerly ranges. They have white undersides and rump. The head and neck are lighter in color than the body. The muzzle, belly, back of legs, and rump are white. The tail is black. Older rams can have a dark band across their white belly. Stone sheep with lighter colored coats are often considered Fannin sheep.
The Stone sheep is somewhat larger than the Dall sheep, with huge backward-curling, deeply ridged horns. Females, known as ewes, have small, slender horns. A mature adult Stone ram has a stocky body that usually weighs about 200 pounds but occasionally reach 250 pounds.
The Stone Sheep is a gregarious species, with Rams forming groups of around 15 individuals, known as ‘bands’, and the females and juveniles gathering in larger groups. The rutting season of the Stone sheep generally begins in late November. This is when the Rams compete for females by engaging in violent confrontations slamming the horns together. These duels begin with pushing, then the sheep move back several yards before running towards each other until they lunge and slam horn onto the horn. These duels may last for hours, with the winner emerging as the dominant ram in the group and entitling them to breed the females. The sound of the horns hitting each other can be heard up to a mile away. As an adaptation to these contests, male Stone sheep have air spaces in their skulls, which absorb the impact when the horns clash together.
They are usually found in steep, alpine country below the permanent snow line. To escape predators, they prefer areas with cliffs and rock outcroppings and nearby meadows for feeding. Stone sheep habitat is generally more rugged than traditional Dall sheep habitat areas. Other than that, they live in quite similar areas. Their diet consists of mainly of grasses, shrubs, and sedges, as well as lichens and mosses when other vegetation is scarce. They have separate summer and winter ranges, changing elevations with the seasons.
Wolves are their main natural predators, but there are threats also from lynx and grizzly bear.