Denizens of the Steep short film – Bighorn sheep and backcountry skiing in the Tetons

Here’s an 8 minute film about bighorn sheep and backcountry skiing in the Tetons. It shows the bighorn sheep there are an isolated population since their range has shrunk drastically all over North America. It looks like they are really avoiding people. They’ve lost some of their lower elevation wintering grounds and now stay at higher elevations in winter rather than migrating, which is far more difficult for them. Recent studies compared bighorn sheep locations to locations used by backcountry skiers, and they were basically not overlapping.

2021 short film Denizens of the Steep-

They included a shaded map showing the bighorn sheep distribution in North America. Similar to American bison, bighorn sheep had a very severe drop within the last 150-200 years. They were not quite as close to extinction as the bison, but still dangerously low. Thankfully, numbers have rebounded slightly. However the reduction in habitat and range is now isolating populations and is a major problem for bighorn sheep. This is a story that matches that of other large mammals in North America. They need access to large ranges both for migration and for maintaining genetic diversity.

Bighorn sheep population:

  • 1850: 2,000,000
  • 1960: 25,000
  • 2012: 90,000

Here is the article where I found it originally, more from a skier perspective – https://www.tetongravity.com/story/news/grand-teton-national-park-ski-access-is-at-risk

And as usual, Wikipedia is a great read for more on this animal – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bighorn_sheep.

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