Stop Threatening Endangered Bighorn Sheep

Target: Tiger Shaw, President and CEO of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association

Goal: Tell skiers to stop skiing in bighorn sheep territory.

An ancient herd of bighorn sheep are on the cusp of extinction, and backcountry skiers are increasing their decline. The herd has lived in the mountains of Grand Teton National Park for thousands of years and there are now about 100 of them left.

The bighorn sheep have faced many threats, including market hunting, habitat loss and disease. Researchers estimate that around 1.5 million sheep once inhabited the Western U.S. and Canada. Now, only about 85,000 remain. A ancient herd lives atop windswept ridges in Grand Teton National Park, which also serves as a favorite slope for backcountry skiers. Skiers are venturing farther into uncharted territory in pivotal winter months, and now are one of the top threats facing the herd, according to biologists.

A biologist with Wyoming Game and Fish Department studied the intersection of backcountry skiing and bighorn sheep. She tracked the movement of sheep and 700 ski trips and found that bighorns abandon areas disturbed by skiers and rarely return. Their habitat is especially important during the winter, when their primary focus is to graze and conserve calories.

Kim Havell, a well-known and respected ski mountaineer, has worked to raise awareness around the threat skiing poses to bighorn sheep, and has changed where and how she skies because of it. Despite her efforts, the ski community has been slow to change. The United States Ski and Snowboard Association can educate their community on the threat to bighorn sheep and prevent further population decline. Sign below to demand skiers stay away from known sheep habitat, change their route if they see one, and educate others to do the same.


Dear Mr. Shaw,

The bighorn sheep face many threats to their population and are now on the verge of extinction. Backcountry skiing has had a detrimental effect on sheep herds. Scaring away a bighorn may not seem damaging. However, it is crucial for them to remain in their habitat during winter months to graze and conserve calories.

You can use your platform in the ski community to educate skiers about the threat to bighorn sheep and how to prevent their imminent decline. I ask that you inform backcountry skiers to take extra precaution to avoid bighorn sheep territory, change their route if they see a sheep, and encourage others to do the same.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Linnaea Mallette

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