Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Wyoming
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Wyoming Project

Mapping and characterizing bighorn sheep seasonal ranges and migration routes

July 2023 - December 2024


Participating Agencies

  • Wyoming Governor's Big Game License Coalition

Wyoming contains some of the largest and most robust bighorn sheep herds throughout their broad distribution in western North America. In an effort to further bolster bighorn sheep across the state, the WGFD and partners have conducted numerous large-scale research and survey projects occurring both statewide and across broad regions. For example, since 2011 the WGFD and its Wildlife Health Laboratory have been conducting statewide bighorn sheep herd health surveillance and have sampled over 1,500 bighorn sheep across the state, many of which were also equipped with GPS collars. Additionally, collaborative efforts within the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) involving the WGFD, Montana State University, the University of Wyoming, the National Park Service, and the Shoshone and Arapaho Tribes have worked to conduct an integrated research program focused on bighorn sheep pathogen communities, habitat selection, seasonal migration, competition with introduced mountain goats, and genetics. Collaborators involved in this work have aggregated upwards of two million dollars for research that has compiled one of the largest integrated datasets ever collected for bighorn sheep. The research efforts have helped to directly inform bighorn sheep management and conservation, have been presented at local and national conferences, and produced nearly 20 peer-reviewed journal articles covering a broad range of topics. While past efforts have greatly helped to further our understanding of bighorn sheep across the state, there are a host of additional research projects that can use the existing datasets to generate new insights and further advance bighorn sheep management and conservation. In particular, the spatial dataset of GPS locations provides an opportunity to characterize and document bighorn sheep migration patterns, seasonal ranges, and habitat characteristics in a level of detail not previously conducted in prior research.