The Influence of Landscape Scale on the Management of Desert Bighorn Sheep

  • Paul R. Krausman


Historically, there were more desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis californiana O.c. mexicana O.c. nelsoni O.c. cremnobates) inhabiting desert mountain ranges of the southwestern United States than there are today. Seton (1929) estimated there were approximately 2,000,000 bighorn sheep in the contiguous United States in pristine times; about half were desert bighorn sheep (Buechner 1960 Cooperrider 1985). However, Valdez (1988) doubted that wild sheep numbers ever exceeded 500,000 in North America. Bighorn sheep are highly selective in their habitat preference and were not distributed uniformly throughout the mountains of western North America. However, in recent times, numbers are down; drastic habitat alteration and destruction by humans eliminated or reduced desert bighorn herds, and in 1991 approximately 25,000 desert bighorn sheep existed in isolated populations scattered throughout their former range (Valdez and Krausman, in press). Desert bighorn sheep populations of the western United States and Mexico have suffered severe declines due to human impacts. Desert bighorns have become one of the rarest ungulates in North America and have been eliminated in Texas and the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila. Transplant programs have been successful in reestablishing populations in localized areas in many American states where they were extirpated (Buechner 1960 Trefethen 1975).


Mountain Range Habitat Patch Landscape Scale Conservation Biology Bighorn Sheep 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

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  • Paul R. Krausman

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