The Olympics are barely underway, but there’s one world record that Montana already has locked down: world’s largest bighorn sheep ram.
The Boone and Crocket Club confirmed on Wednesday that a 9-year-old ram that died of natural causes at a Montana state park is a shoe-in as the new world record bighorn sheep.
"It shatters the previous world record by nearly seven inches, so it’s not close," says Dillon Tabish. "We've got the world record here, it just needs to be officially confirmed."
Tabish is an education program officer with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. He’s currently sharing his office with the ram’s skull and horns.
"It leaves you a little speechless to look at it," says Tabish. "I’ve never seen an animal like this before and I’ve lived in Montana my whole life."
The ram was measured at the Boone and Crockett Club's headquarters in Missoula on Wednesday and scored 216 3/4 points, breaking the previous record held by a ram found in Alberta.
Tabish says the skull was collected in 2016 from Wild Horse Island State Park on Flathead Lake. It’s illegal to possess bighorn sheep skulls and horns, so wildlife officials regularly remove deceased rams from the island which is known for its bighorn sheep population.
The 48-pound skull was kept in storage and only taken out and measured for the first time two months ago.
"We did a quick informal measurement and we were pretty surprised what we discovered. It was a bit of a buried treasure that we had," says Tabish.
Senior Boone and Crockett officials are scheduled to meet in Bozeman later this month to confirm and certify the record.
Tabish says "it’s not every day you have a world record. For northwest Montana to now have three of the top ten biggest bighorn sheep on record in the world, let alone the biggest of all time, is really special. It’s really reflective of our conservation partnerships, our critical habitat work and public lands. I mean those three combined produce something special like this."
A public viewing of the ram skull will be held at FWP regional headquarters in Kalispell on February 23rd from noon to 5 p.m.