California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Program

"The wild sheep ranks highest among the animal mountaineers of the Sierra. " —John Muir



The heavy snows and fierce winds that sweep across the high Sierra make this a challenging environment for even the most skilled mountaineer. For Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, this is home. They’ve been battling the elements, disease, and predators in these mountains for centuries as they struggle to come back from the brink of extinction. In 1995 there were only 105 bighorn remaining in the Sierra Nevada compared to thousands during the 19th century. The first Californian shepherds grazing their livestock in high alpine meadows brought devastating disease into bighorn country, much like European settlers brought Old World diseases to the native Americans. Fortunately, this unique subspecies is recovering, and over 400 bighorn can now be found from Mt. Langley in the south to Dunderberg Peak in the north. These beautiful alpine specialists are spreading across the landscape, inhabiting their former range, and becoming more visible. Please explore their home in the high Sierra and visit the links to see what CDFW is doing to conserve this majestic animal.