YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (FOX26) — Yosemite National Park rangers spotted two Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep – the rarest mountain sheep in North America.
[RELATED: Annual California bighorn sheep count canceled]
There are around 500 of them wandering around the mountains today, and about 75 within Yosemite National Park. They’re typically found in elevations about 10,000 feet, the National Park Service says.
They get to about three feet tall and can weigh 140-220 pounds. Rams have gigantic curved horns that can weigh up to 15 pounds, and ewes have smaller horns with slightly curved spikes.
The National park Service says those animals are some of the world’s best climbers.
“This species’ anatomical adaptations have assisted in their ability to scale great mountain walls: strong muscles and unique rubber-like pads on the bottom of their hooves allows for exceptional grip over irregular rock surfaces, allowing them to easily ascend monumentally steep terrain,” NPS wrote.
Disease has nearly wiped out the species. In Yosemite National Park, there were 0 Sierra Nevada Bighorn sheep for nearly 75 years, but thanks to relocation and preservation efforts, their population size is growing.