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Abstract

Mating by young males or low male-to-female ratios can decrease pregnancy rates and postpone birthdates in ungulates, thereby hindering population growth. Young (2.5–3.5 yr old) male bighorn (Ovis canadensis) behave differently than older males, and age, horn size, mating behavior, and social rank help determine reproductive success. We estimated birthdates in two populations of bighorn sheep in Utah, USA, to determine if mating by young males or low male-to-female ratios resulted in fewer young born per female, a shift in mean timing of births, or asynchronous births. When reintroduced, the Rock Canyon population consisted of four males (two each of 2.5 yr old and 1.5 yr old) and a 1 to 7.5 ratio of males (>2 yr old) to adult females (≥3.5 yr old); the Mount Nebo population consisted of four males ≤1.5 yr old and a 0 to 12 ratio of males to adult females. For both populations, the number of young born per female did not differ between the first parturition period after reintroduction (where females were impregnated by males from their source populations) and the second period of parturition (where females were impregnated by young, reintroduced males). Mean birthdates and synchrony (SD) of births did not differ for Rock Canyon (May 12, 2001 ± 4.5 d, May 14, 2002 ± 3.2 d) or Mount Nebo (May 23, 2005 ± 8.1 d, May 22, 2006 ± 10.2 d) between the first and second years following reintroduction. Mating by young males or low male-to-female ratios had no demonstrable effect on the number of young born per female or timing and synchrony of births in these populations.