Recent genetic research has confirmed that British Columbia (BC) is home to the only pure populations of Stone’s sheep. Because Stone’s sheep are likely more rare than previously thought, the province has a global responsibility for managing these ecologically unique subspecies of thinhorn sheep (Ovis dalli). The Dunlevy and Schooler subpopulations, located on the north side of the Peace Arm of Williston Reservoir, are the most southern functionally viable herds of the species.
Recently, local residents have expressed concern regarding the possibility of exposure of these wild sheep to novel pathogens because of:
- the proximity of domestic livestock, primarily goats, near Butler Ridge within the home range of the Dunlevy herd, and
- a new vegetation management program, using domestic sheep, being implemented south of the Peace Arm, and
- range overlap with elk, who are known to transmit winter tick
Due to rising concerns for these at-risk Stone’s sheep herds, the Wild Sheep Society of BC and Wildlife Infometrics partnered in an effort to reassess the current status of these two at-risk sheep herds in 2019. Our goals are to examine population dynamics, behavior, range use, and distribution of Stone’s sheep in these two herds. Additionally, we hope this project will provide habitat use information that may be used to guide potential habitat enhancement treatments in these areas in an effort to encourage a greater separation between Stone’s sheep, elk, and domestics.
Funding and support for this herd health assessment project is provided by the Wild Sheep Foundation, the Wild Sheep Society of BC, the North Peace Rod and Gun Club, the BC provincial government, and the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program. Funds provided by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program are on behalf of its program partners BC Hydro, the Province of B.C., Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations, and Public Stakeholders who work together to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by existing BC Hydro dams. The Wild Sheep Society of BC and Wildlife Infometrics would also like to recognize the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation along with the anglers, hunters, trappers and guides who contribute to the Trust, for making a significant financial contribution to support the Health Status and Behavior of British Columbia’s Southern-most Stone’s Sheep. Without this support, this project would not be possible.