Photo by Bill Broyles.

Habitat Selection of Aoudad, Desert Bighorn Sheep, and Mule Deer in the Trans-Pecos

Daniel Wilcox, Louis A Harveson, Carlos E. Gonzalez, Justin French, Shawn Gray (TPWD), Froylan Hernandez (TPWD)

Native to northern Africa, aoudad (Ammotragus lervia) are adapted to rugged arid environments with limited water and food availability much like desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in North American deserts. Given the similarity in habitat associations and forage habits, it is possible that a degree of niche overlap is present between these species. However, little is known regarding the ecological role aoudad play in Trans-Pecos ecosystems. It is important to better understand potential influences aoudad may have on the viability of Texas’ native big game.

This project was initiated to investigate potential overlaps in habitat use between aoudad, desert bighorn, and mule deer to understand how aoudad impact native big game species. In January 2019 satellite collars were affixed to individuals from each species. In total 41 aoudad, 39 desert bighorn, and 59 mule deer have been collared. These collars facilitate post-release monitoring of individual daily movements, which are referenced with habitat metrics including forage availability, distance to water, and terrain ruggedness. This will allow us to measure components of species’ niche and conceptualize potential overlap in selection between these habitat parameters. Results from this study will help inform wildlife managers on the potential habitat use similarity between aoudad and native big game species.

Funding sources: San Antonio Livestock Expo, West Texas Chapter Safari Club International, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Borderlands Research Institute.