EDMONTON - Wildlife officials in Alberta think they've found the big one.
They believe a set of spiral horns on the skull of a bighorn sheep found east of the Rocky Mountains will set a new world record.
Now all they have to do is wait.
Alberta Fish and Wildlife officer Insp. Neil Brad said Tuesday that the horns, weighing about 18 kilograms, must be left to dry for a couple of months before they can be officially measured.
A certified panel with the Boone and Crockett Club, a company that catalogues big game records, will then measure the length and circumference of the horns to come up with a score.
A preliminary count puts the horns almost two centimetres over the score of the current world-record holder — a set belonging to a bighorn shot by a hunter in Alberta in 2000.
A wildlife officer discovered the latest rack at a reclaimed coal mining site south of Hinton, east of Jasper, two weeks ago, said Brad. It's believed the horns came from a 10-year-old ram that died of natural causes over the winter.
Environment Minister Robin Campbell stood alongside wildlife officers as the humongous set of horns was displayed for the first time for reporters.
He said he was impressed.
"It's huge," said Campbell, adding he has a set of horns from a bighorn on a wall in his office. They're big, he said, but not this big.
Bighorn sheep, Alberta's official animal, are plentiful near the Rocky Mountains. Tourists can often spot the brown-haired beasts navigating the steep, rocky terrain with ease. During mating season, the male rams rear up on their hind legs and charge at each other, smashing their horns.
Campbell said he's confident the newly discovered horns will claim the new record. And expects they won't be going up on anyone's wall.
Because the horns are now provincial property, he said he'll make sure they end up in a museum or perhaps the lobby of a government building.
"To see a head this big is really something," Campbell said. "We'll make sure it's on display so the public can look at it."