WSU Veterinary College Displays Bighorn Skeleton in Lifelike Diorama

PULLMAN, Wash. — A museum-quality bighorn sheep skeleton specimen is currently on public display during business hours in the Washington State University Animal Disease Biotechnology Facility located south of the French Administration building across the Grimes Way parking lot.

The native habitat diorama was built for permanent installation at the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep headquarters in Cody, Wyo., next month. Rocky Crate, a 1969 WSU veterinary alumnus and FNAWS member, donated more than $1.5 million to the university in 1998 before his death to establish The Rocky Crate D.V.M. and Foundation for North American Wild Sheep Endowed Chair in Wild Sheep Disease Research. The endowed professorship recognizes the work of veterinary parasitology professor Bill Foreyt, among the world’s undisputed leaders in wild sheep disease research.

The skeletal mount was built by John Hobbs, a laboratory technician in the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, with the help of WSU veterinary anatomists to commemorate the lifelong contributions of Dr. Crate and Gene Majors. Until his death last year, Majors was a dedicated wild sheep conservationist who volunteered thousands of hours of labor and personal funding to wildlife agencies and WSU during sheep censuses, transplants and disease outbreaks.

“These two men were very influential in the success of wild sheep in Washington,” said Steve Kline, vice president of the Washington chapter of FNAWS. “They gave an extraordinary amount of their time and resources to save and perpetuate the legacy of wild sheep not only here, but across the West. The public and all who admire wildlife owe them a great debt of gratitude, and this remarkable display is one small reminder of their efforts.”

The 5- to 6-year-old ram was originally donated to WSU by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department as a lamb. The ram was part of WSU’s world-renowned research herd used to study fatal diseases that have decimated wild sheep populations the world over. Upon its death, the skeleton was prepared for display rather than disposed of.

Prized as sentinels of habitat and wilderness quality and as trophy animals, bighorn sheep are compared by scoring their horns. While not a record book animal, the ram on display would score between 160 and 165. The current world record bighorn ram scored an incredible 208 and was taken in a hunt in the 19th century. A ram scoring 205 5/8 was taken in Alberta, Canada, last season after the hunter paid more than $750,000 for the opportunity to harvest one animal.

Wild sheep hunters and FNAWS are the world’s most generous contributors to wildlife conservation. They are vigorously involved in the conservation, propagation and intensive management of the remaining wild sheep populations and their habitats in North America. To date, this has amounted to gifts of more than $15 million to worthwhile projects throughout the continent.