Welcome, Rams!

A Sierra Nevada bighorn ram. Credit: Steve Yeager

Photo: Steve Yeager.

Big news from the heart of the park: Last week, five Sierra Nevada bighorn rams joined Yosemite's Cathedral Range herd!

This map shows the Sierra Nevada bighorn recovery and herd units. The five rams were transported from Mt. Baxter and Sawmill Canyon, in the southern unit (purple) to Yosemite's Cathedral Range, in the northern unit (yellow). Map courtesy of California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The rams were relocated from the Mount Baxter and Sawmill Canyon herds (see map at right), which are known for their high heterozygosity, or genetic variability.

The original Cathedral herd, which was mostly ewes, was released into Yosemite in March 2015. That historic moment, made possible in part by a grant funded by our donors, marked the return of the endangered subspecies to its ancestral habitat for the first time in a century. (Watch this Yosemite Nature Notes episode to learn more and see footage from that noteworthy day.)

Since then, with support from our donors, a team of bighorn experts has been monitoring the herd using on-the-ground surveys and remote tracking technology. Our project coordinator joined one of the surveys to help search for sheep and predators this past spring — read our June blog post to see what they found.

The new rams, all between 3 and 7 years old, were transported by helicopter to specific spots within the Cathedral Range where ewes are known to be located. Before being released, all five rams were fitted with brand-new GPS collars, which will allow wildlife managers to keep an eye on them remotely.


An action shot from the November 2016 release. Photo: Derek Halsey


These new rams, which arrived just in time for mating season, will play an important role in helping this species restoration effort reach an important milestone: establishing a self-sustaining herd of Sierra Nevada bighorn in the heart of the Yosemite Wilderness. Their arrival brings the total number of bighorn in the Yosemite area (the Northern Recovery Unit) to approximately 100 sheep.

Thank you to our donors for supporting this effort, and to all the partners that are working together to grow and protect Yosemite's bighorn population. Learn more about the park's bighorn sheep program on the NPS site, and follow us on social media to get the latest updates on this and other projects our donors support in the park!

Yosemite Insider