Overview: Alberta bighorn sheep management

The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) is a species of North American wild sheep that is found in the Rocky Mountains bordering western Alberta. This iconic species is Alberta’s official provincial mammal.

Wildlife management of bighorn sheep has been ongoing in the province since the early 1900s, with earlier efforts centred on setting hunting limits on trophy rams. More recent management planning for this species places a greater focus on habitat conservation, while continuing to regulate hunting to sustain bighorn sheep populations in the long term.

  • Elements of bighorn sheep management

    A basic element of wildlife management is adaptive management, that is, to periodically re-examine how the wildlife are doing and whether there are adjustments that can be made to our practices to benefit the animals and maintain opportunities for various uses by Albertans.

    Bighorn sheep management in Alberta includes:

    • administration of legal hunting
    • comprehensive wildlife management planning
    • documentation of distribution and population health
    • enforcement of management-based laws
    • regular monitoring of populations
    • research
  • Goals and objectives

    Key management goals and objectives for bighorn sheep conservation are as follows:

    • Harvest non-trophy sheep where appropriate.
    • Identify and protect bighorn sheep habitat, with an emphasis on winter range.
    • Maintain area-specific population goals.
    • Manage the harvest of bighorn trophy rams on a sustainable basis, including allowing non-resident hunting.
    • Provide for subsistence use, wildlife viewing, scientific research and educational activities.
    • Study in detail sheep winter ranges and ensure their viability.

Key documents and resources

Three bighorn sheep

A comprehensive management plan completed in 1993 guides provincial efforts to sustain this species.

Bighorn sheep ram with large horns

Alberta has been registering bighorn sheep and monitoring populations from 1971 to present.

​Bighorn sheep monitoring datasets

The above data sets are subject to ongoing review and updates will occur as new information is available.