Bighorn sheep populations experienced a drastic reduction in both distribution and abundance until the advent of modern wildlife management, where improving viability of extant populations and translocating animals into historical habitat range have been the most important management policies. The fact that subspecies relationships among bighorn are ambiguous, together with the importance of selecting appropriate source stock and the expense of translocation projects, makes an understanding of subspecies relationships and genetic variation, within and between populations, important for the management and conservation of this species. In this study, genetic variation in 279 bighorn sheep from 13 study sites in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Alberta, Canada were examined by analyzing ten microsatellite loci to determine interpopulation differentiation and relationships between closely related taxa. All populations contained a substantial amount of genetic variation. Genetic differences between populations were large and roughly proportional to geographic distance. The significance of this to desert subspecies relationships and management is discussed.
- Bighorn sheep
- Genetic distance
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics