POTD: Death Grin

Death Grin
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Montana
2022

I was bushwhacking down a canyon trying to work my way the the Bighorn Reservoir when I came across this bighorn sheep skull. There are approximately 150 bighorn sheep in the area and one evening we had about a dozen of them grazing right next to our campervan. This one has not done any grazing in a while. A complete skull of a bighorn ram is a rare find I think so my first thought was to carry it out and take it home. But I did not do that for two reasons. First it’s not allowed to collect bones, skulls, or horns in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation area. The other good reason for not taking it with me I discovered when I picked it up to reposition it to photograph–the darn thing was heavy! A pair of horns alone can weigh up to 30 pounds, and then there is the skull itself which has a very thick and dense forehead reason so that rams can do what rams do (ram each other) without suffering a fractured skull.

6 thoughts on “POTD: Death Grin”

  1. That is quite a find, Larry! Especially to see the lower jaw bone still attached and with all the teeth. It appears not to have been scavenged much by other animals.

    1. Thank Kathy. If you look closely, that jawbone isn’t actually attached to the “pivot” on the skull like it should be, and in fact the jaw bone was laying a foot or so away from the skull when I first came across it. When I moved the skull out of the dappled sunlight to get a better image of it, I also took the liberty of placing the jawbone more or less where it goes. But you are right, it does not appear to be scavenged much by other animals, which is strange considering that I saw none of the rest of the skeleton laying anywhere around it. I suppose someone else had actually found it at one time and was attempting to carry it out when they too decided against that because of the weight or whatever.

        1. It’s also possible that the rest of the bones, which are lighter than the skull and horns, got washed downstream. I followed the stream bed down but it went over a very tall, dry waterfall that stopped my progress. I couldn’t climb around it either so was not able to see if there was a pile of bones at the bottom of it.

  2. Stephen E Johnson

    The bighorn horns I once found were down in a boggy area. The skull was decomposing, rotten and the bone green colored. The horns were in better shape though not pristine. You are right, they are quite heavy, quite a load. Imagine packing that weight around on your head all day!

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