Birthdate and survival in bighorn lambs (Ovis canadensis)

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Abstract

The relationship between parturition date and lamb survival was investigated among individually marked bighorn ewes in south-western Alberta, Canada. Lambs were born from 17 May to 21 July. Most births occurred in the first two weeks of the lambing period. Lambs born in May enjoyed greater survival than lambs born in June and July. The viability of lambs born after 10 June was extremely low. Inadequate nutrition is suggested as the cause of greater mortality of lateborn lambs. Ewes that give birth late are at an earlier stage of lactation when forage quality declines and may not produce sufficient milk to ensure lamb survival. Their lambs have access to high-quality forage for a shortened period. The proportion of late lambs appeared to be correlated with ewe density in the winter range.

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