The Decline of Bighorn Sheep in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona

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Conference Paper

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l. f. DeBano, P. F. Folliott, A. Ortega-Rubio, G. J. Gottfried, R. H. Hamre, and C. B. Edminster, tech. cords. Biodiversity and management of the madrean archipelago: the sky islands of the southwestern United States and northeastern Mexico. USDA For. Serv. RM-GTR-264

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Desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis mexicana) are an important component of the biodiversity in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness (PRW) , Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona. The population has decreased from approximately <20 in 1926 to in 1994 and their distribution is limited to < 50 km2 in the PRW. The population decline has been attributed to human activities including the development of roads and trails, housing and resorts, hiking, dogs, and fire suppression. Fire suppression effectively has altered vegetation so parts of the PRW are not suitable for bighorn sheep. Human encroachment into the remaining areas has been too severe for the population to increase. Disease, predation, and hunting may have contributed to the recent decline but their influence has not been evaluated. Prior to any reintroduction efforts, managers should understand the factors that have caused the decline. The public is supportive of management options including those that restrict the use of areas and prohibit dogs from bighorn sheep habitat. However, human intrusion into bighorn habitat may be too severe for recovery efforts to be successful.


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