October 9, 2018
Meet the locals! Watching the bighorn sheep rut is a favorite pastime for locals and visitors on Whiskey Mountain near Dubois. The National Bighorn Sheep Center offers tours to view the Whiskey Basin sheep when they return to their winter habitat in the area. The best time to go is the last two weeks of November and the first two weeks of December, which is the height of the rut. Tours are available by appointment and require 24 hour notice.
Bighorn sheep ram horns can weigh up to 15 pounds each, meaning bighorn sheep males might have 30 pounds atop their head. Those horns aren’t used for defense, but for a real-life game of king-of-the-mountain to establish breeding rights among the herd of ewes. It’s a wild animal experience not to be missed.
The National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center, located at 10 Bighorn Lane right on Dubois’ Main Street, offers a chance to learn about wild sheep in North America. It tells the story of the animals’ history, their habitat and their future, which is threatened. Bighorn sheep have suffered declines across the country, crowded out by development, the reintroduction of predators, and most importantly diseases carried by domestic sheep.
There’s a viewing shed on Trail Lakes road, complete with a spotting scope, benches, shelter and interpretive signs, that’s a great place to start your viewing.
If your visiting dates don’t coincide with the rut, or tours, the Interpretive Center is still worth a stop. There’s plenty of information, with interactive exhibits and mounted animals. There are also chances to view sheep in other times of the year. The staff keeps a list of recent sightings and can direct you to where you might be able to catch a glimpse of these iconic animals.