Our Beautiful World

Snow Sheep, Siberian bighorn sheep, Ovis nivicola

© Vladimir Dinets

© Copyright Brent Huffman, 1999, www.ultimateungulate.com

Body Length: 140-160 cm
Shoulder Height: 95-112 cm
Tail Length: 10 cm
Weight: 60-120 kg
The wooly winter coat is a light, milky coffee colour. The fronts of the legs are dark chocolate brown,
while the rear edges may have whitish markings.
The horns, found in both sexes, growing to 89 cm long in males, the horns curl backwards, downwards,
and upwards around the ears, corkscrewing outwards in old males as the horns begin their second revolution.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 8.5 months.
Young per Birth: 1
Weaning: At 4-6 months.
Sexual Maturity: Females at 2 years, males at 5 years.
Life span: 9 years.

© Vladimir Dinets

The snow sheep is a well adapted mountain dweller - extremely agile and nimble, and able to move quickly
over steep, uneven terrain. Within bachelor herds, a dominance hierarchy is formed based primarily on horn size. However, if two males have approximately equal sized horns, the dominant/subordinate relationship
is decided in combat. Facing each other from a distance, they run towards each other with heads lowered,
rearing up and crashing their horns together in an attempt to throw their rival off balance.
(All text above © Brent Huffman, www.ultimateungulate.com)

Range Map (Redrawn from Weinberg et al., 1997)

© Vladimir Dinets

As of the mid 1980s, the total snow sheep population size was estimated to be between 85,000 and 95,000;
comprised of 12,000 to 13,000 Kamchatka sheep (O. n. nivicola),
55,000 to 60,000 Yakutian sheep (O. n. zydekkeri),
10,000 to 12,000 Okhotsk sheep (O. n. alleni),
3,000 to 3,500 Koryak sheep (O. n. koriakorum),
3,000 to 3,500 Chukotsk sheep (O. n. tschuktschorum),
and 3,500 Putoran or Norilsk sheep (O. n. borealis)
(Revin 1982; Revin et al., 1988; Weinberg et al. 1997).

More recently, numbers of Putoran sheep have been reported to be increasing (Sipko 1999),
but population trends for other subpopulations are not available.
There are now some new data on size populations of snow sheep
. According to Kamchatka Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (2007), the latest population estimate
of O. n. nivicola is about 7,000 individuals, of which 150 are hunted each year.
The Putoran snow sheep (O. n. borealis) is a protected subspecies, and its population size has increased
during the last decade and currently stands at about 5,500 individuals
(Natural Resources Ministry of Russian Federation, Natural World Heritage Commission, 2008).
The population size of Chukotsk sheep is estimated as 1,500 individuals.
Its population density varies from 0.3 to 3.5 individuals per 1,000 ha, and in some parts of its range
(Rarytkin, Zolotoy, and Elekay Ranges, Northern and Southern Vapanaivaam Mountains)
only single individuals are registered (Red List of Russian Federation 2000). There is no recent estimate of the overall population size for the species, and its trends are unknown.

All text in this frame: © International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.


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