The size of the horns in female mouflons would influence reproduction
Study author believes trophy hunting could lead to smaller horns and harm the species.
Alberta is home to 9000 bighorn sheep (archive).
A University of Alberta study examining the link between horn size and reproductive fitness in bighorn sheep concludes that females with smaller horns are less suitable for reproduction.
Published in March in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the studys& #x27;is interested in a population of sheep from Ram Mountain, an area east of the Rocky Mountains near Nordegg.
Its author, Samuel Deakin, says that he has had many studies on the subject, but that the originality of his study lies in the fact that it focused on females , to examine what influences their horns, or what indications their horns had about breeding suitability.
According to Samuel Deakin, the survey revealed that females with longer horns give birth to mothers at an earlier age, usually at 3 years of age, while those with short horns give birth for the first time at 5 years old.
Furthermore, while it is known that male mouflons use their horns to eat and fight, the author of the study says it doesn't know what female horns are really for. He adds that these could be used to defend themselves or to give an indication of the quality of the strain from which the female came.
However, the horns of females are less impressive and generally smaller than those of males, which can reach a meter and weigh up to 14 kilograms.
Most female sheep can live to be 18 years old.
Samuel Deakin fears the possible impacts of trophy hunting on horn size. Hunters select the largest male sheep, which could decrease the size of horns in the population, including those of females, and harm the persistence of the species, he says.
The bighorn sheep hunting season began this year in late August, with 3,000 hunters.
Wildlife Health and Licensing Director at Alberta Fish and Wildlife , Matt Besko, recalls on this subject that bighorn sheep hunting is regulated and managed in such a way as to ensure the survival of the species.
But according to Devon Earl of the Alberta Wilderness Association, the study sheds light on the fact that trophy hunting of bighorn sheep is not sustainable because it affects the reproductive capacity of these female bighorn sheep. The conservation specialist promises, therefore, that her association will keep an eye on the population of this mammal.
Alberta is home to 9,000 bighorn sheep, including 3000 are in protected areas.
With information from Ishita Verma