World Record Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram Testifies to Montana’s Conservation Success for Wild Sheep

March 1, 2018

B&C’s World-Record Measuring panel with Governor Bullock and WSF and B&C leadership. L-R - Pat McKenzie (Saskatchewan), Gray N. Thornton, WSF President & CEO, Roger Atwood (Idaho), Governor Steve Bullock, Justin Spring, Director B&C Records, Fred King (Montana), Jack Reneau, Panel Chairman (Montana), Victor Clark (Nevada) & Tony Schoonen, B&C Chief of Staff.

Bozeman, Montana. Mar. 1, 2018

The Bozeman, Mont., based Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) welcomed Montana Governor Steve Bullock and dignitaries from the world of conservation yesterday as the Missoula-based Boone and Crockett Club convened a special judges panel to officially score and certify a Montana ram as the new world record bighorn sheep. 

Founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, the Boone and Crockett Club (B&C) is the oldest conservation organization in North America. It maintains the records of native North American big game as a vital means of assessing the success of wildlife management programs.

As a crowd of 75 members of Montana’s conservation and outdoor adventure communities gathered outside awaiting the final results, a four-member panel of senior B&C Official Measurers convened in the Jack Atcheson, Jr. Conservation Conference Room at WSF headquarters to measure the ram’s horns. The panel confirmed the final score to be 216 and 3/8 points under B&C rules. This measurement surpasses the previous world record ram, which had scored 209 and 4/8. 

“What a day for Montana,” said WSF President and CEO Gray N. Thornton after the official score was announced. “This is an incredible celebration of wildlife, wildlife habitat and our Montana state parks.” 

Montana has 46 distinct populations of bighorn sheep, with approximately 6,000 of the animals roaming various parts of the state. 

“This special animal is proof that our wildlife conservation model is working,” said B&C Chief of Staff Tony A. Schoonen. “This really is a cause for celebration for anyone who cares about wildlife.”

The new world record ram was nine years old when it died and had lived its entire life on Wild Horse Island, a state park located in northwest Montana’s Flathead Lake. The ram was found by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) officials, who determined it had died of natural causes. Because a hunter did not take the ram, the department entered the ram into B&C records on behalf on the citizens of Montana.

According to FWP Region 1 Park Manager Dave Landstrom, who spoke at the event, Wild Horse Island entered the state park system in the late 1970s and since that time has seen its bighorns become a “nursery herd” for transplanting animals to other areas where they had either died out or populations were at risk. A total of 10 bighorn sheep were translocated from three locations in Montana to Wild Horse Island between 1939 and 1987. The island’s herd flourished, becoming an exceptional source stock of outstanding bighorn sheep genetics. Since 1954, a total of 561 Wild Horse Island bighorns have been taken to 16 other Montana sites and to Washington and Oregon. 

“On one hand, what a mighty animal,” Gov. Bullock told the crowd. “But it’s so much more. It’s about what we have in Montana. This celebration is not just about a great ram. It’s about the ethics and ethos of all Montanans.” 

Thornton announced plans for WSF to have the new world record bighorn professionally mounted in full life size and placed on display in the Montana state capitol building for the people of Montana, and visitors from everywhere, to enjoy. 

“This is the people of Montana’s ram,” Thornton said. “Montana owns it.” 

He also unveiled a proposed WSF and Montana Chapter of WSF plan to work with FWP and the Governor’s office to use replicas of the new world record sheep to raise funds for Wild Horse Island and the Montana State Parks Foundation to support state parks, including wildlife and habitat initiatives.

Also present at the ceremony were the horns of a recently taken bighorn ram that equals the world record measurement for a hunted bighorn sheep. That ram, measuring 208 and 3/8 according to B&C, was taken by a Montana resident hunter and WSF member in fall 2017 in the Missouri Breaks, world renowned for its herds of bighorn sheep. Also displayed at the ceremony were the horns of two other B&C record-book rams. In all, four of the world’s largest bighorn sheep were represented at WSF headquarters, and all four came from Montana. All three Wild Horse Island rams and the Missouri River Breaks ram will be on display at the Montana Chapter of WSF banquet March 10th in Bozeman.

“This is an exciting day for Montana, for Montana FWP, for Montana state parks, and for the Montana chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation,” said Thornton. “What an incredible array of rams. It’s good to be a Montanan.” 

For the past 32 years, WSF has been selling Montana’s bighorn sheep special permit, the proceeds of which go directly to wild sheep conservation. In all, WSF has raised $6.6+ million, with $6.2+ million used by Montana FWP for bighorn restoration. At this year’s WSF convention, the Montana special permit sold for $335,000, making it again the highest priced special permit of any species anywhere. Again, the proceeds will be focused on wild sheep populations and restoration in the Treasure State.

With its world headquarters in Bozeman, Mont., The Wild Sheep Foundation, formerly the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, was founded in 1977 by wild sheep conservationists and enthusiasts. WSF’s Mission is to enhance wild sheep populations, promote professional wildlife management, and educate the public and youth on sustainable use and the conservation benefits of hunting while promoting the interests of the hunter and all stakeholders. With a membership of more than 7,000 worldwide and a Chapter and Affiliate network in North America and Europe, WSF is the premier advocate for wild sheep, other mountain wildlife, their habitats and their conservation. Since forming in 1977, the Wild Sheep Foundation and its chapters and affiliates have raised and expended more than $120 million on conservation, education and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe and Asia towards its purpose to “Put and Keep Wild Sheep On the Mountain”®. These and other efforts have resulted in a three-fold increase in bighorn sheep populations in North America from their historic 1950-60s lows of 25,000 to 85,000 today. WSF, its Chapters, Affiliates and agency partners are also working together to ensure thinhorn sheep thrive in their northern mountain realms for generations to enjoy.

Media Contact: Gray Thornton, 406.404.8750,


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