Currently Stone Sheep range from the northern Rocky Mountains, the Skeena region, Alaska and Yukon. 85% of all the Stone Sheep in the world are found in British Columbia. However, the populations seem to be decreasing in parts of British Columbia and therefore population and habitat management is of utmost importance. If the decrease isn’t stopped it will affect British Columbia’s global reputation. The Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia conducted a meeting in 2006 with a diverse group of attendees including guide outfitters and other wildlife practitioners.
Conceptual Model of Stone Sheep Ecology
Stone Sheep must protect themselves from predators and compete for forage. Ideal habitat areas have been decreased due to forestry, agriculture and recreation. The GOABC wants to maximise populations and recreate range that is capable of maintaining sheep populations.
Population and Habitat Management/Inventory
The problems are that there isn’t enough inventory data from the Stone Sheep ranges as well as the lack of habitat mapping. A management and inventory strategy needs to be developed and a population model needs to be established using already existing data from hunting and extra-government sources.
There should be a survey about sheep populations every five years; a 1:250,000 mapping project has to be finished and an interagency committee for the northwest Stone Sheep must be created.
Forest Ecosystem Dynamics and Range Quality
In this area the biggest problem is the forest encroachment on sheep range and the biomass needs to be restored by 25% of current levels. To solve the range quality problem small fires adjacent to other critical habitat should be conducted.
Predation and Forage Competition
Some factors that are limiting Stone Sheep populations are predators like wolves, coyotes, wolverines, grizzly bears and other ungulates such a elk and bison that compete for forage with the Stone Sheep. Regarding predators recommendations include to make the hunting season on wolverines longer, hunt grizzly bears in areas where they most likely will prey on Stone Sheep, research critical lambing areas to reduce the predation by eagles, trappings of the predators within sheep range and direct aerial hunting of predators but only if the population of Stone Sheep is in dire need of such a solution. When it comes to other ungulates the harvest regulations of elk should be liberalised in areas where Stone Sheep are present and reduce the number of bison in sheep range by 50%.
Industry and Development/Agriculture
It is hard for the industry to avoid critical sheep habitats since there is no mapping of such areas, the sheep are therefore severely impacted by industry development. Especially domestic animal grazing poses a threat to sheep populations. It is critical to start mapping all of the Stone Sheep range and identify important seasonal habitats. To collect data it is recommended to include traditional and community knowledge of the sheep habitats as well as discussing funding for mapping prjects with industry representatives. It’s also important to raise awareness about the impact of horse feed and tracking for recreational use and to reduce domestic livestock diseases.
Populations and habitats of Stone Sheep need to be monitored regularly. If an area is highly affected by predation there are several strategies that should be considered like increasing the length of the wolverine hunt. Ungulates pose another threat to sheep populations and therefore especially elk and bison need to be reduced in the affected areas. Mapping of all areas can help industry to not develop within important Stone Sheep range.
- Source Guide Outfitters association of British Columbia. March 2007. GOABC Wildlife Stewardship SERIES I. Stone’s Sheep - Preparing for the Future An Action Plan for Stone’s Sheep. Avalaible at : https://www.goabc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/WSS1-StoneSheep.pdf [Accessed 03/2021].