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A native Alberta mammal, the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep was designated as the provincial animal in 1989. Prehistoric remains have been found in most of the river valleys across Alberta, showing that at one time some of the largest herds of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep roamed the province. Today, the bighorn is primarily found in the high country of the Rocky Mountain regions. They provided food, clothing, and cooking utensils for the Indigenoust Tribes that hunted. There were also many tribe specific supersitions and beliefs that dictated the hunting of these animals.

The Tlingit, Tagish and Tutchone believed that the couple who survived the first great flood snared mountain sheep as their first animal. In earlier times, strict rituals were obligatory of sheep hunters and their spouses. For instance, when the Southern Tutchone sheep hunter was away, his wife was not allowed to move around unnecessarily, consume hot food or heat water. If she did not follow these rules, they believed that the snow and ice would start to melt in the elevations, causing snow slides and endanger the hunter’s life.

This image was painted with permission by a photo taken by Tony Bynum one of North America’s premier Wildlife Photographers.

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