"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are
neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make
things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve
rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be
attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." -Thomas Jefferson,
quoting Cesare Beccaria.
All Rights Reserved
RAM DIES OF NATURAL CAUSES
A world-class bighorn sheep ram that lived along the Arkansas River was found
dead in late November. Over the past few years, the ram was spotted in a small
herd of sheep that lived on private property west of Pueblo Reservoir.
Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) biologists estimate the ram was between 12
and 13 years old and was driven from the herd by younger males. At that point,
he traveled north onto property owned by Fort Carson where it died of old age. A
necropsy indicated heart and lung problems along with arthritis and a chest
old guy is one for the record books," said Allen Vitt, a terrestrial biologist
from Pueblo. "Based on the initial measurements, the ram will score among the
largest in the world."
The current Boone & Crocket world record ram is 208 and three-eighths. Scoring
is done by taking a series of standardized measurements. Boone & Crocket
requires that horns dry for at least 60 days before measuring, so a final score
will not be calculated until February.
One thing that might prevent this sheep from becoming a new world record is that
fact that one of its horns was broken off at the tip. "Brooming" is the name for
the chipping and fraying of the horns. It is usually caused by fighting.
Regardless of the final score, the ram was one of the most majestic bighorn
sheep recorded in Colorado.
of the reasons this ram's horns grew to such massive proportions is because he
lived a long time in relative seclusion. There is no public access to the
portion of the Arkansas River where it lived. The rocky cliffs adjacent to the
river provided ample protection from predators and there was good access to
forage and water.
Fort Carson military and wildlife officials discovered the ram on the southern
end of their property in late August and kept a close eye on it to ensure its
safety. The ram was showing signs of old age including decreased muscle mass,
fatigue, and had become seemingly unafraid of humans. "We were very fortunate
that personnel at Fort Carson found the ram," said Shaun Deeney, an area
wildlife manager from Colorado Springs. "Due to their vigilance, we will be able
to preserve this majestic animal for future generations." The DOW plans to have
the ram mounted to use in an educational display.
"Our records indicate that bighorn sheep were first documented along the
Arkansas River between Pueblo and Cañon City in the early 1990's, said Bob
Davies, a senior biologist with the DOW. "We believe the sheep migrated into the
rugged cliffs along the river after transplant operations along Hardscrabble
Creek in 1988."
Bighorn sheep are the official state mammal in Colorado. They are an extremely
popular animal both for hunting and for wildlife viewing. Many areas of the
state have developed wildlife viewing areas specifically for bighorns including
Georgetown west of Denver and along the Arkansas River west of Cañon City.
At the time of the arrival of European settlers, bighorn sheep were very common
throughout Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West. By the end of the 19th century,
however, populations of bighorn sheep declined.
Although the exact cause of the decline is not fully understood, wildlife
biologists believe that parasites and diseases, such as lungworm and pneumonia,
may have been key factors. Other reasons included market-hunting to feed a
growing population in the gold mining camps.
Over the past 50 years, the Colorado DOW has taken a proactive role in sheep
management and today there are approximately 8,000 sheep roaming the
mountainsides and canyon lands in the state. "Intensive management efforts began
in the 1970"s and bighorn sheep populations have been on the rise ever since,"
In 1962, there were at least 52 known herds of bighorn sheep in Colorado ranging
from the Continental Divide to Mesa Verde National Park. Today the number of
herds in Colorado has more than doubled.