Evaluating Habitat Utilization by Female Desert Bighorn Sheep and Aoudad in the Sierra Vieja Mountains, Texas

Jose Etchart, Ryan O’Shaughnessy (SRSU), Jimmy Cain (NMSU), and Louis A. Harveson

As our restoration efforts of desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) continue, anecdotal reports from agency staff, biologists, hunters, and landowners suggest that the desert bighorn is potentially threatened by the distribution and population increase of aoudad, or barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia). Aoudad, an African generalist originally from the Atlas Mountains in northern Africa, were brought to the United States at the turn of the 20th century.

Due to their apparent ease of adaptability there is considerable concern for ecological competition with endemic fauna and modification of local flora. The effects of aoudad on native ungulate species such as bighorn sheep is unknown, therefore, it is important to determine the potential impact aoudad have on desert bighorn sheep. This study evaluated 17 collared desert bighorn sheep ewes in the Sierra Vieja Mountains. Additionally, eight aoudad ewes were equipped with GPS radio-collars, to compare habitat selection between bighorn sheep and aoudad.

Funding sources: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Southern New Mexico Chapter of Safari Club International, West Texas Chapter of Safari Club International, Safari Club International Foundation, New Mexico State University, and the Borderlands Research Institute.