March 6, 2024

Dall Sheep

One of the most fun species of wildlife to spot on our Alaska trips are the Dall sheep. They live in several of the areas we visit, including the Kenai Mountains, the Chugach Mountains and the Alaska Range and Denali National Park area, as well as many other mountainous regions of Alaska. They prefer dry, mountain country and favor areas with open alpine ridges, meadows and steep slopes with rugged “escape terrain.” They feed and rest in the mountain and meadow areas and use the steep slopes as escape routes to evade predators, such as wolves, and as birthing areas in late May and early June.

One Dall sheep resting on a craggy mountain slope

These herbivorous animals can grow up to 300 pounds and eat grasses, lichen, moss and other plants depending on their exact location within the state. While both females and males grow horns, females (known as ewes) grow shorter, more slender and only slightly curved horns, while the males generally grow much larger and more curved horns over the course of their life. Horns grow steadily over spring, summer and fall but stop growing when food is less abundant in the winter. This growth pattern results in a pattern of rings called annuli and can help wildlife biologists determine age. Male Dall sheep are also known for their horn clashing which is a means of establishing dominance order; these clashes occur most frequently during mating season.

A family of Dall Sheep with a lamb

The Dall sheep population in Alaska is generally considered to be healthy but does fluctuate from year to year depending on predator population size (this includes brown bear, wolf, coyote, golden eagle, and wolverine populations) and severity of winter weather. More mild winters tend to lead to a larger Dall sheep population, while severe winter weather including especially deep snow leads to a smaller population and fewer lambs the following spring.

A family of Dall Sheep near the roots of a spruce tree

Wildlife viewing, including spotting Dall sheep, abounds on all of our trips and packages! And while we can’t guarantee you’ll see any specific species, all of our knowledge and experience does guarantee that you’ll have tons of opportunities to spot wildlife on your trip with us. Contact us today to find out more about wildlife viewing on your trip to Alaska.

Find out more about this remarkable species by visiting the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website and the National Park Service website.