Desert-dwelling Mountain Sheep: Conservation Implications of a Naturally Fragmented Distribution

Authors

  • V. C. BLEICH,

    Corresponding author
    1. California Department of Fish and Game, 407 West Line Street Bishop, CA 93514, U.S.A.
    2. Institute of Arctic Biology and Department of Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA.
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  • J. D. WEHAUSEN,

    1. University of California, White Mountain Research Station, Bishop, CA 93514, USA.
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  • S. A. HOLL

    1. U.S. Forest Service, San Bernardino National Forest, Mill Creek Ranger Station, Route 1, Box 264, Mentone, CA 92359, U.S.A.
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    • Jones and 2600 V Street Suite 100, Sacramento, CA 95818, U.S.A


*Correspondence should be addressed to this author.

Abstract

Abstract: Mountain sheep (Ovis canadensis) are closely associated with steep, mountainous, open terrain. Their habitat consequently occurs in a naturally fragmented pattern, often with substantial expanses of unsuitable habitat between suitable patches; the sheep have been noted to be slow colonizers of vacant suitable habitat. As a result, resource managers have focused on (1) conserving “traditional” mountainous habitats, and (2) forced colonization through reintroduction. Telemetry studies in desert habitats have recorded more intermountain movement by desert sheep than was previously thought to OCCUT. Given the heretofore unrecognized vagility of mountain sheep, we argue that existing corridors of “nontraditional” habitat connecting mountain ranges be given adequate conservation consideration. Additionally, small areas of mountainous habitat that an? not permanently occupied but that may serve as “stepping stones” within such corridors must be recognized for their potential importance to relatively isolated populations of mountain sheep. We discuss the potential importance of such corridors to other large, vagile species.

Abstract

Resumen: Los borregos cimarrones (Ovis canadensis) exhi-ben una asociación cercana con terrenos montañosos escar-pados y abiertos. En consecuencia, su hábitat ocurre en un patron naturalmente fragmentado, frecuentemente con grandes extensiones de hábitat impropio separando las areas apropiadas; y se ha notado gue los borregos cimarrones son lentos en colonizar hábitat apropiado vacante. Como resultado de estes observaciones, gerentes de recursos naturales ban enfocado su atención en (1) constrvación de hábitat montañoso “tradicional” y (2) colonización forzado por reintroducción. Estudios telemetricos en hábitates desiertos ban demostrado más movimiento entre sierras que antes se creía que ocurriá. Dado la tendencia de vagar basta abora no reconocido de los borregos cimarrones, proponemos que corredores actuales de hábitat no tradicional que conectan sierras merecen consideración adecuada para consmación. Además, se debe reconocer la importancia para poblaciones relativamente aisladas de los borregos cimarrones de áreas pequeñas de hábitat montañoso que, aunque no ocupadas de manera permanente, pueden facilitar el movimiento de los borregos cimarrones dentro de dichos corredores. Se señala la importancia de estos cowedores para ohos especies errantes grandes.

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