The Whisker Chronicles

Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.

Day Five of Twelve Days of Arctic Animals: Dall Sheep

Dall Sheep

Dall sheep Ram
Photo courtesy of National Parks Service

Scientific Name:  Ovis dalli

Dall sheep were scientifically named in 1884, “Ovis” is from the Latin word ovinus, meaning sheep.  Dalli is derived from the name of scientist William Healey Dall who did not discover the sheep, but led surveys in the late 1800’s in Alaska.

Where Dall Sheep Live:   

Dall sheep inhabit high mountain ranges in Alaska, northern British Columbia, Yukon, and Northwest Canadian Territories.  They live in dry mountainous regions and some sub-alpine grass and low shrub habitats.

Dall sheep herds typically have distinct summer and winter ranges with migrations determined by snow depth, temperature and available plant food sources. The majority of time is spent in the winter range in wind-swept areas that provide clear areas of forage.


What Dall Sheep Eat:   

Dall sheep are herbivorous and eat wheatgrass, fescues, bluegrasses, lichens, mosses, clover, pea vine, lupines, pasture sage, dwarf willow and cinquefoil.  In the winter, diet is mostly dry, frozen grass, sedge, and more lichens and mosses than in other seasons. Mineral licks are also important to provide minerals.

How Long Dall Sheep Live:  12-15 years

Why Dall Sheep are Awesome:

Dall sheep spend most of their lives on the jagged slopes of mountains. Their cloven hooves with rough pads help them cling to cliff edges and broken ledges, where they flock to elude predators that cannot traverse such terrain.

The horns of the male Dall sheep grow continuously throughout life and can weigh up to 22 pounds.  Horns stop growing in winter when food is not plentiful and then resume growth in spring, summer and fall. This creates a pattern of rings on the horn that can determine age.

Ewe with lambs

Dall sheep ewe with lambs
Photo courtesy of National Parks Service

 Why We Care about Dall Sheep: 

Dall sheep are one of the most visible large mammals for wildlife viewing in northern Alaska.  Severe declines in Dall sheep numbers occurred in the 1990s following several severe winters. While some populations appear to be recovering, regional numbers remain lower than were seen in the early 1980s. Dall sheep are a food resource for humans and a popular species for hunting.  Sportsmen are often responsible for spearheading measures that support habitat preservation and species conservation.

Go feast your eyes on some footage of these beautiful mountain climbers!

ARKive video - Dall sheep - overview

Video Credit:

BBC Natural History Unit
c/o BBC Motion Gallery
The Garden house Media Centre
201 Wood Lane London
W12 7TQ United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8433 2861 / 2
Fax: +44 (0) 20 8433 2939

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: