Spring Rams 1: Two bighorn sheep rams butt heads among the cliffs of Miller Butte near Jackson in late March. Such sparring among males is typically associated with the rut in the fall. (Timothy Mayo)

Bighorn sheep rams perform their iconic head-butting contests for dominance and access to eligible females each fall. Apparently, no one told these two.

They were caught in the act last Saturday, March 24 — months after the rut — by photographer Timothy Mayo on Miller Butte in the National Elk Refuge near Jackson.

Mayo was watching a bachelor herd of about 15 males bedded among the butte’s cliff bands when he noticed a smaller group of ewes approaching from above. The rams seemed disinterested until the females descended to their level, at which point “they just went crazy,” he said.  

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Roughly half of the males stood and squared off among the cliffs, he said, creating the opportunity for Mayo to catch the action shot above.

Such off-season behavior isn’t all that unusual according to Steve Kilpatrick, executive director of the Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation. “They will spar a bit year round,” he said “but the intensity is greatly elevated during the rut.”

Perhaps that’s why the ewes, seemingly unsurprised and unimpressed, simply kept walking.

Matthew Copeland

Matthew Copeland is the chief executive & editor of WyoFile. Contact him at matthew@wyofile.com or (307) 287-2839. Follow Matt on Twitter at @WyoCope

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