Abstract

Small and isolated populations of bighorn sheep are vulnerable to predation by mountain lion in habitat sympatric with mule deer. Understanding the specific causes of death and survival is important for the development of conservation strategies for bighorn sheep and other ungulates that share the same habitat, such as mule deer. We evaluated and compared the rate of predation by puma in 12 bighorn sheep (10 females, two males) and 10 adult females of mule deer with radio collars through measure risk program (micromorts). The impact of predation in both populations of herbivores is evaluated through the estimation of densities of sheep and mule deer. 88 % (8/9) deaths by puma in bighorn sheep with an average monthly survival rate of 0.79 and predation rates due to puma range from 0.17 to 0.30. In mule deer predation due to puma was 83 % (5/6) with an average monthly survival rate of 0.86 and predation rates due to puma range from 0.10 to 0.25, however when comparing the mountain lion depredation rate we found a significant difference between species (Z = 1.826, df = 6, P = 0.05). The density in mule deer was 9x more that bighorn. The bighorn sheep being the prey most selected and the one most affected as the population with the lowest density.

Keywords: Bighorn, mule deer, mountain lion predation, Sierra Maderas del Carmen, survival rate, translocate